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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "Police body camera bill clears hurdle in Senate"

Jill Disis of the Indianapolis Star reports on the outcome of this morning's Senate Judiciary hearing on HB 1019, police body cameras. Some quotes:

An early version of the bill was slammed by critics who argued it gave too much power to law enforcement to publicly withhold the release of incidents recorded on body-worn or dashboard cameras. But supporters said public access to footage might compromise the privacy of a person shown in the video.

Sen. Rodric Bray, a Republican, introduced a number of amendments to the bill he said alleviated those concerns. Chief among them:

  • While the original version compelled police to show video footage to a person in some cases, it also allowed departments to refuse to release to most of the public, and required the public to justify in court their reason for wanting the video's release. The amended version flips that burden of proof, and requires police to justify why the video should be kept private. Exceptions that would allow the department to withhold video include whether the footage would create bias or prejudice for a court trial, or if it would affect an ongoing investigation.
  • The new bill also requires police to let anyone look at or copy a video if it depicts evidence pertaining to the excessive use of force or a civil rights violation. By releasing the video, however, the department would not be admitting any wrongdoing.
The legislation also allows police to obscure sensitive information in the footage before release, such as images of confidential informants and undercover officers, nudity or personal medical information. * * *

One of the original bill's biggest critics, Hoosier State Press Association Executive Director Steve Key, said he is happy with the changes.

"We think the bill before you now ... is an improvement over what came over from the House side," Key said during testimony.

Others expressed some concerns with the new version. West Lafayette Police Chief Jason Dombkowski, representing the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police, said he feared the language regarding the release of video pertaining to excessive use of force or civil rights violations created due process concerns.

"We feel those things are best determined before a judge," Dombkowski said.

After the committee hearing, Bray said lawmakers will continue finessing the language of the bill. If there is a disagreement between a police department and the public over whether a video contains evidence related to excessive use of force or a civil rights violation, he said, perhaps a judge could step in.

ILB: The Committee Report with the new language is not yet available; neither, of course. is the reprinted bill, watch for it tomorrow.

"I feel like today we made a big step on this bill," Bray said. "We wanted to put together a policy that allows law enforcement to use (body cameras). We think there's a real benefit in these body cameras, and if we do it wrong, I think they'll put them on the shelf, or just not buy them at all."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 24, 2016 01:12 PM
Posted to Indiana Government