A new bill in Indiana could put a dent on police accountability through police recordings.
House Bill 1019, authored by Republican Rep. Kevin Mahan, seeks to restrict public records requests for law enforcement recording by allowing police departments to decide whether video footage of officers—including body cameras and dashboard cameras—will be released. If police deny access, the next step would be to sue the agency.
Not surprising the bill has drawn criticism. According to the IndyStar, the Hoosier State Press Association immediately called out the the harm the bill has the potential to achieve. Namely, it has the power to undermine pushes toward police transparency and public accountability for law enforcement agents.
“The bill is probably not perfect,” Rep. Mahan said during a hearing on Tuesday according to the IndyStar. “It puts a statewide structure in place for those agencies that choose to have their officers use body cameras.”
Is statewide consensus on this kind of legislation enough? Though not in Indiana, the case around the footage of Laquan McDonald demonstrates that coordinating various levels of government with law enforcement should be the least of our concerns.
Since the release of footage at the end of November, rampant evidence of officers lying on record, of intimidating witnesses, and of deleting footage from the local Burger King has emerged. No less, even with just the video footage, the District Attorney Anita Alvarez had ample reason to indict Officer Jason Van Dyke for the shooting and waited until 13 months later, when the video was released after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was approved. Furthermore, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed to deny the footage’s release, which many point to being in coordination with his reelection campaign.
Law enforcement and state actors are already to coordinate with one another. But more insidiously, these alignments too often coincide with opportunities to absolve officers of responsibility for the ways they abuse the law, on and off camera.
The new bill, if passed, has the potential to not only maintain these kinds of circumstances, but make them legally binding, in ways that callously foster police protections at the expense of the public.
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