Michigan House OKs bill governing police body camera footage


From Minnesota to Michigan, police body cameras are under scrutiny and facing new regulations and new questions about how they're used.

A yoga teacher and bride-to-be was reportedly gunned down by police after she called 911. Now people are asking why the officers' body cameras weren't turned on.

It is the first fatal shooting since the city of Minneapolis began equipping its officers with body camera last year.

The latest shooting is putting the spotlight once again on the Minneapolis area.

Last July, Philando Castile was shot and killed during a traffic stop in neighboring St. Anthony.

The city of Minneapolis adopted a body camera policy last year, but unlike other cities the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports body camera only have to be on for certain situations like traffic stops and arrests. Minneapolis officers can often use their own discretion.

That policy was apparently violated just days ago when 40-year-old Justine Damond called 911 on Saturday night.

When she approached the responding officer's cruiser one of them opened fire, killing her. The events leading up to the shooting still have not been made clear.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder recently passed a law that allows officers to withhold certain body camera footage.

It's a case of privacy versus transparency. Starting in January the state of Michigan will have new rules regarding the disclosure of audio or video recordings from police body cameras. This comes from legislation signed last week by Snyder.

"There has to be some type of mechanism where we're not using body cameras and that footage to re-victimize individuals," said Kimberly Buddin, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under the new law police will not have to release body cam footage if it was recorded on private property.

The ACLU supports the new law, believing it could prevent people's private lives from ending up in the public eye.

"It's about body camera use in private places. So body cameras that are used in public spaces are still subject to the same requirements that they were previously. This legislation that was recently signed is only about those private places," Buddin said.

Buddin said if a police officer does something questionable on private property they won't be able to keep it secret.

"There is a mechanism where if there is some type of police misconduct done in a private setting where a body camera is used an individual who is the subject of that recording can request that particular recording," Buddin said.

Nevertheless, the Michigan Press Association has come out against the new law stating in part "the cameras and footage from them are paid for by taxpayer dollars. It seems that these recordings could serve as a tool to provide information to citizens that would help build trust in their law enforcement departments. However, if that footage isn't released or is deleted in the short time period allowed in the new law, that erodes that trust," Buddin said.

However, Buddin said the law still holds those officers accountable and that it's not just for their benefit but the public's as well.

"It's a critically important thing for our public to be able to hold our law enforcement accountable for their actions. At the same time we have to, we recognize that we need to balance the privacy interest of individuals," Buddin said.

Snyder's office said the bill represents a balance between the needs and rights of the public and press for transparency and the privacy rights of individuals who may be included in the footage of police body cameras.

Copyright 2017 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Digital Content Producer

Recommended for you