California Bill Would Mandate Release of Police Bodycam Footage

[7/13/17  SPUTNIK]  Debate over police transparency and privacy has been reignited in California after a Democratic lawmaker filed a bill to require police officials to release body camera footage along with any other recordings.

Introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting, Assembly Bill 748, if enacted, would create a statewide policy dictating when bodycam footage along with any other audio or video recording should be released.

Coming on the heels of a nationwide push for body camera recordings to be released more expediently, the bill would in effect amend the police departments statute to limit their discretion for withholding any recordings related to police shootings.

The measure would also require departments to release video in cases where law enforcement officers used force or in incidents where a violation of law or public policy was committed.

“We have a patchwork of policies and in some instances, very little policy, as to when the public can access the information and when the public can’t,” Ting told Associated Press. “Body cameras were created to improve greater public trust between law enforcement and community members and without access to that video footage we’re not really able to achieve those goals.”

To no surprise, many law enforcement agencies have attacked the bill, suggesting it should be up to local departments to determine when and if the footage should be released.

Several California departments, including the infamous Los Angeles Police Department, say footage obtained at any crime scene should be exempt from the state’s open records law.

“This bill will taint ongoing police investigations and all but kills the impartiality of the investigation process,” Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, told Associated Press Tuesday.

According to Ting, his bill “strikes a fair balance,” despite opposition, because it allows for multiple exemptions giving departments the chance to withhold videos if there is more of a public interest in not disclosing the recordings.

Despite that leeway, opponents are adamant that the requirement to release recordings after the 90 day period would compromise criminal investigations.

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California’s state Public Safety Committee has scheduled a hearing and will determine the fate of the bill in the following week.