Baltimore Sun Editorial Challenges Needs for Body Camera Privacy Legislation

A Baltimore Sun article (2017-10-09) reported that two Baltimore County Council Members, Todd Crandell and Wade Kach, have introduced a resolution urging the Maryland General Assembly to consider a statewide policy to clarify when the public should have police body camera video footage under the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA). The resolution calls for protecting individual privacy rights while maintaining law enforcement transparency. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the County recently announced the adoption of body cameras for 1,400 of its police officers. The resolution proposal follows that announcement.

The article noted that State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger planned to testify in support of the resolution while the ACLU of Maryland opposed the measure. From the article:

“This is simply about a layer of protection for innocent victims and bystanders for their privacy,” said Councilman Todd Crandell of Dundalk, who is sponsoring the measure with Councilman Wade Kach of Cockeysville. …

American Civil Liberties Union attorney David Rocah called the resolution “unnecessary and deeply misguided.” …

Crandell said the resolution was inspired not by any specific incident, but by a constituent concern about privacy. The concern, he said, is that police are often called to people’s homes, and “anybody who wants to request that footage can then see inside of your home.”

A Baltimore Sun editorial (2017-10-09) followed up on the article expressing the Sun’s opposition to the resolution and statewide legislation. While the Sun acknowledged the various concerns raised by stakeholders, the Sun argued that such legislation was “hypothetical” and unnecessary:

Proponents of new limits on the public release of police body camera video come at the issue from a variety of perspectives. Some are concerned that video showing victims of alleged domestic or sexual assault could become public, thus leading to stigmatization of those who are already vulnerable. Others worry that videos could show embarrassing or private details of one’s home — footage of dirty dishes in the sink, or a homeowner’s collection of firearms, as some legislators mused during hearings on the topic this year. And representatives of local governments in particular are worried that they will be slammed with overly broad requests for video that will prove expensive and time consuming. …

 

Useful Links

Conduit Street Article on Baltimore County Body Camera Adoption

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Body Cameras

MACo’s Winter Conference, The Power of Partnership, on December 6-8, 2017 will have two sessions focusing on the Public Information Act. The Academy for Excellence’s Core Course, Public Information Act, is an excellent overview of the requirements for county governments. The conference closing session, “The Path to Success,” will involve strategic discussions around MACo’s 2018 Initative to modernize the PIA. Read more about both sessions in the Registration Brochure.

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference: