Bodycams

NYPD bodycam policy comments

July 29, 2016

The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news media organizations submitted comments on a draft policy regarding the NYPD's bodycam program. The comments highlight the importance of compliance with New York's Freedom of Information Law when it comes to requests for bodycam video. They address, among other things, the limited scope of exceptions to disclosure, segregation requirements, technology and redactions, discretionary releases, and fees associated with FOIL requests.

Pennsylvania State Police v. Grove

June 30, 2016

A requester sought police audio and video taken at the site of a car crash in Pennsylvania, under the state's Right to Know Law. The Pennsylvania State Police denied the request, citing several exemptions. The requester sued, and the trial court held that one of the videos must be released, but that portions of the audio in another video could be redacted. The PSP appealed the decision. The amicus brief of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association and the Reporters Committee argues: (1) police dashcam videos are documentary in nature, and generally cannot be withheld under exemptions that apply to investigatory material; (2) the PA Wiretap Act does not prevent the disclosure of dashcam videos under the Right to Know Law; and (3) access to dashcam videos and bodycam videos is important is important for the public and the press to understand the actions of law enforcement and engage in democratic oversight of their government.

More states set privacy restrictions on bodycam video

Sophie Murguia | Freedom of Information | News | June 29, 2016
News
June 29, 2016

The past month has seen a flurry of legislative activity by states seeking to regulate access to video from police body cameras. New Hampshire, Minnesota and Louisiana recently passed laws exempting some video from disclosure, while several other states are considering bills that place privacy restrictions on access.

Bodycams have become increasingly popular as tools to ensure police transparency, but releasing the footage has prompted privacy concerns. Most state open records laws would consider body camera videos to be public records, but also include some exemptions from release for records that would violate a subject's privacy.

Cincinnati Enquirer v. Deters

February 8, 2016

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed an amicus brief in the Ohio Supreme Court regarding access to police body-worn camera ("BWC" or "bodycam") videos under Ohio's Public Records Act. The video in question shows the shooting of Samuel DuBose by a University of Cincinnati police officer. RCFP's amicus brief argues that bodycam videos are not confidential law enforcement records under Ohio Public Records Act and accordingly must be released upon request. It also demonstrates the great public interest in having an accurate account of the interactions between law enforcement officers and members of the public, especially in use of force incidents.

New D.C. bodycam policies too restrictive, critics testify

Soo Rin Kim | Freedom of Information | News | October 29, 2015
News
October 29, 2015

Open-government advocates warned District of Columbia officials last week that exemption of all police body-worn camera footage showing "assaults" will undermine the very purpose of the program, as will other provisions designed to delay or deny the release of footage to the public.

The discussion came at a D.C. Council committee's public hearing to discuss three proposed amendments regarding the Metropolitan Police Department’s bodycam program.

The debate centered on how to balance transparency and privacy concerns and whether police body-worn camera recordings should be granted special treatment outside the existing D.C. Freedom of Information Act.

“It is our view that body camera footage is just another public record in simply different format,” said Rebecca Snyder, the President of Maryland, Delaware and D.C. Press Association President.

Body cameras meant to improve accountability, but D.C. police won't release images, panelists say

Michael Lambert | Freedom of Information | News | September 30, 2015
News
September 30, 2015

Although D.C. police officials said one of the aims of its police body camera program was to increase the police's accountability to the public, the public has yet to view any of the footage after repeated public records requests, experts said at a recent panel discussion.

A panel of open record and privacy advocates, including two members of the Reporters Committee staff, explored the current state of police body camera programs and why the recordings have been shielded from the public at an event organized by the D.C. Open Government Coalition and hosted at the Newseum on Sept. 16.

Advocates push back against FOIA exemptions for bodycam footage

Kelly Swanson | Freedom of Information | News | June 9, 2015
News
June 9, 2015

As states begin to implement laws requiring police officers to wear body cameras, lawmakers now struggle with the question of who should be given access to the recordings. Many states have already proposed legislation that will withhold bodycam footage from the public. As outraged civil liberties activists try to prevent this legislation from passing, many are forcing state legislatures to consider bills that allow for a greater degree of public access.

In many states, citizens have the ability to request copies of footage from police worn body cameras through their state’s public record law. However, fear of privacy issues that this new technology may create is causing a rush to propose broad categorical FOIA exemptions of body camera footage, perpetuating the current barrier between many law enforcement officials and the public.

Reporters Committee op-ed argues that records laws can handle questions of access to body cam video

Freedom of Information | Commentary | May 18, 2015
Commentary
May 18, 2015

In a recent op-ed in The Washington Post, the Reporters Committee argued that the controversial issue of access to body cam videos need not be that controversial.

Debate in Washington D.C. over police body cameras, and who should be able to see the resulting videos, has heated up in recent weeks. Despite promises of transparency, the Metropolitan Police Department has denied FOIA requests for body camera video, and Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed a new exemption to the DC FOIA that would completely prevent public access to bodycam videos.

Comments on Public Access to DC Police Body Camera Video

May 7, 2015

This testimony was submitted to the Judiciary Committee of the D.C. Council in response to a public roundtable on the Metropolitan Police Department's use of body-worn cameras (BWC). The Reporters Committee's testimony argues that BWC videos are public records that should be treated the same as any other record under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act. Additional information is provided regarding available technology that can be used to redact the videos for privacy and law enforcement concerns.

Police bodycam videos: The Wild West of open records requests

Adam Marshall

Police departments across the nation are implementing body-worn camera programs in an effort to create a more objective record of officers’ activities. As recent news events have proved, these videos can provide crucial information about what transpired in a situation. Gaining access to bodycam videos, however, is proving to be an uncertain and challenging endeavor for journalists.

Many police departments are adopting bodycams before creating policies or procedures for compliance with open records laws, leading to erratic disclosure between jurisdictions and cases.