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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - HB 1019, law enforcement recordings, is on 3rd reading this afternoon

HB 1019 was the subject of a long Jan. 18th ILB post, headed ""Police could refuse to release video footage in new Indiana bill."

The Indianapolis Star had this editorial today, headed "Police camera footage should remain public":

The use of body and dashboard cameras by police departments aims to build trust between law enforcement officials and the public. Video from such cameras has proven to be a vital tool in determining the truthfulness of encounters between civilians and officers.

Proposed legislation that would allow Indiana police departments to decide whether to release video footage captured on body-worn or dashboard cameras would undermine efforts to increase police transparency and the ability for citizens to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions.

House Bill 1019, authored by Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, would limit public access by giving police departments the freedom to show recordings of law enforcement actions only to the person in the video or that person’s relatives or attorney. The general public could be shut out from valuable information under HB 1019.

Allowing departments to shield information about questionable incidents is a bad idea. Such footage has proven to be good for citizens and for police officers, who have been exonerated when falsely accused of wrongdoing. Yet incidents of inappropriate deadly force, and the use of video as objective evidence in these cases, also underscores the necessity of such technology.

Under the proposal, if a law enforcement agency refuses to release footage, the person requesting the video would have to take the department to court and argue for the video’s release. Hoosiers have a right to government records and documents — in the case of video, visual documentation — and residents should not have to pay legal fees to fight for their release. Not only would that option be financially prohibitive for some, but there is no guarantee that they would win in court.

This proposed legislation unnecessarily attempts to undo sound public policy. Disclosure of how government operates is mandatory in maintaining a democratic society. Similar to other police records, video camera footage should be subject to current public records laws.

House Bill 1019 is a disturbing and overreaching piece of legislation. Lawmakers should quickly do away with this bill and move on to other important matters.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 26, 2016 01:44 PM
Posted to Indiana Government