“Our concern is that if you make it too private, the whole idea that we are able to use the body cameras to watch the police, to turn this around and say this is surveillance of law enforcement, really falls by the wayside,”
In this Nov. 5, 2014, AP file photo, Sgt. Chris Wicklund of the Burnsville Police Department wears a body camera beneath his microphone. Minneapolis, with the largest police department in Minnesota, has become the latest to equip officers with body cameras in what officials say is an effort to improve transparency and hold police accountable. The New London Police Department is field testing body cameras made by Taser. Photo: Jim Mone/AP
A bill introduced in the Minnesota House on Thursday would keep any videos recorded by police body cameras private, alarming those who say it would hinder efforts to hold police accountable.
Sponsors say the cameras are likely to record embarrassing personal information about people dealing with police at extremely traumatic points in their lives.
But others say if the videos are kept secret it defeats the purpose of the cameras, which is to record how officers interact with the public — and serve as a check on police abusing their authority.
A handful of police departments across Minnesota already are using body cameras.
State law requires body camera video to be accessible to the public. But some lawmakers say it should be private to protect the public from embarrassing situations.
“You could have a half naked housewife that’s been beat up with a bloody face, half naked kids running around,” said state Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center. “You could have a gun collection. That information needs to remain private.”
Cornish, chair of the House Public Safety Committee, introduced a bill that would classify the video from body cameras as private data accessible only to law enforcement and the subjects of the video. He said privacy concerns and the cost of redacting data are the reasons to keep the videos confidential.
“Naturally, it’s going to be something other than public,” Cornish said. “You aren’t going to have huge amounts of footage of innocent people, put into storage or a hard drive and allow people to walk in and get it.”
Cornish’s bill also requires police departments to destroy any data not involved in an active or inactive criminal investigation after 90 days.
Read more at: MPR News