PIA Body Camera Bill Passes Senate Committee for First Time

Last week, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted favorably on a bill that would update the Public Information Act (PIA) to create a necessary policy for the release of body camera footage.

SB 690 – Public Information Act – Inspection of Records From Body-Worn Digital Recording Devices is a prior MACo initiative that had passed the House of Delegates several years in a row. The bill repeatedly encountered opposition in the Senate Committee, but this year has passed unanimously and will now head to the Senate floor for consideration.

The bill clarifies what footage should be subject to public access, continuing to allow disclosure of footage the public has an interest in seeing while shielding victims from potential online shaming. It will also help limit the time and cost it takes State and local agencies to review significant amounts of footage.

From MACo’s testimony:

The PIA works well for paper documents and similar media but is not configured to properly address the massive amounts of video that will be created through police body cameras. Unlike police dashboard cameras, which are limited in both use and the areas they film, there will be far more body camera video generated and it will show scenes never before subject to public scrutiny – including the insides of private homes and businesses. The potential for abusive use of such video, including posting on the internet, is extremely high.

The bill would provide for: (1) law enforcement officer accountability and transparency; (2) protection for victims of abuse, domestic violence or sexual attacks; and (3) clarity of and protection from potentially abusive requests to local government and State records custodians. MACo believes that SB 690 achieves these necessary protections for all parties without altering any current discovery rights or PIA exceptions.

For more information, visit the bill page.

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