Sunday, March 8, 2015

ICP Opposes Shortsighted Body Cam Bill

A few months ago, President Obama expressed strong support for police body cameras, and asked Congress to fund local camera programs. This week, he took a different approach, talking about the problems that arise when cameras are used and cautioning the public not to expect too much from developments in this area. The Community Police Commission in Seattle has aso modified its thinking on the issue, first supporting a pilot program for Seattle police officers and now advising against the broader adoption of cameras by the SPD ("the issues are complex, the CPC explains, and "there is a need to engage our communities before rushing to a final position").

With these concerns in mind, the Board of ICP opposes House Bill 1917. This bill was written to encourage more police departments to use body cameras by changing the Public Records Act to dramatically limit who gets to see camera footage. If this law passes, police departments would have near-complete discretion over who can, and can't, look at recordings. The right to view would be restricted to those directly involved in an incident and those tenacious enough to obtain access by court order. 

 We agree: a new state law is needed to protect the privacy of those who are recorded in police encounters. But HB 1917 goes too far. We urge our state representatives to vote against this bill and find a better way to balance privacy and accountability interests.

Save the date: ICP forum on police body cameras coming in May
Details to follow.