The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has launched an interactive, online map charting the policies of more than 100 police departments and laws in nearly every state regarding public access to police body camera videos.
"In the past year, we've seen dramatic growth in the number of police departments implementing bodycam programs. Unfortunately, not all police departments and lawmakers appreciate the importance of ensuring public access to bodycam video and other public records that are generated by those programs," said Reporters Committee Litigation Director Katie Townsend.
"Compiling bodycam policies, laws and regulations into one user-friendly database will make it easier to identify best practices to achieve the transparency and accountability these programs are intended to promote," Townsend added.
The online map is made possible by a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Built with Google Maps, the map shows which states have passed bodycam legislation, which are considering action and which have nothing on the books. Clicking on a state will bring up links to legislation and other materials, if available. Similarly, by clicking on individual cities users can quickly see police department policies regarding the release of bodycam video to the public. Also included are court decisions, as relevant.
"The online map is an easy way for members of the press and the public to learn more about access to police bodycam video in jurisdictions across the country," Townsend said. "We are extremely grateful for the support we received from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation to help make this tool possible."
As the laws and policy regarding access to bodycam images evolve so, too, will the Web page (www.rcfp.org/bodycams), which will be revised on an ongoing basis to reflect changes in existing entries, as well as include any new information. Users are also encouraged to submit information from cities or states that may not yet be included.
About the Reporters Committee
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was founded by leading journalists and media lawyers in 1970, at a time when the nation’s news media faced a wave of government subpoenas asking reporters to name confidential sources. Today it provides legal resources, and support to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists. Funded by corporate, foundation, and individual contributions, the Reporters Committee serves the nation’s leading news organizations; thousands of reporters, editors, and media lawyers; and many more who use our online and mobile resources. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.
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