Body cameras have been at the center of a heated debate regarding police accountability and it doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon.
A California bill was proposed that would require officers across the state to turn in body camera footage in connection to shootings or other violations. If passed, this would make a drastic change in the use of the footage, which many departments do all they can to keep in house. In many instances, body camera footage is released as much as a year after shootings, if at all.
“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,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, according to KPCC. “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.”
As it currently stands, police departments will still have some wiggle room when it comes to releasing footage. For example, they will still be able to withhold any if they can prove that it would be better for the public for it to remain private. Departments will also have the ability to edit out certain images and information to protect citizen’s privacy.
However, this isn’t enough for many officers to feel comfortable with the proposed change.
“This bill will taint ongoing police investigations and all but kills the impartiality of the investigation process,” said Craig Lally, the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. The Los Angeles Police Department is only one of dozens of departments who are reportedly against the bill.
Thus far, Assembly Bill 748 has made it through the state Senate’s Public Safety Committee on a 7-2 – the two nay votes came from Republican members. It’s expected to go before two more committees before eventually being presented to the full Senate, according to the Washington Post.