Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New body camera bill, new ICP position

In February, 23rd Legislative District Representative and Bainbridge resident Drew Hansen introduced a state police body camera bill that many people, including board members at ICP, found objectionable. The motivations behind HB 1917 were great—get more police officers wearing body cameras, protect the privacy of people filmed in police encounters—but the results were pretty awful. The original bill dramatically limited public access to police recordings, did away with the consent requirement to record, and would have permitted local police departments to have camera programs without any rules or requirements.  

If you don’t succeed, try try again. Instead of digging in his heels when hit with criticism about his bill, Rep. Hansen made some changes. A new bill was put forward as a potential amendment, and may be considered by the House as early as this week. It’s a vast improvement. The new bill:

-guarantees that people involved in police-filmed incidents, oversight agencies, and the general public have access to police cam footage (people directly involved in incidents don’t have to pay for requests; the public may have to pay for costs connected to redaction)

-defines some things that are private, and not available to the public (footage taken in someone’s home, footage of nudity, footage taken of a minor)

-ensures that police departments using body cameras have some basic policies in place (like rules controlling when cameras are turned on or off)

-puts requirements in place that make sweeping, open ended requests for footage near-impossible (requesters need to know something about recordings before they are able to request them—the officer’s name, or the name of someone involved, or a date or case number)

-contains provisions to protect people who bring complaints and/or whistleblowers

-finally, the new bill creates a task force to consider the law’s effects, and sunsets much of the bill in two years. This increases the odds that problems can be identified and remedied.

ICP commends Rep. Hansen for being open to criticism, and flexible in his approach. We support the increased use of police body cameras--and his amended bill.

 The Amended Bill is referred to as striking amendment H2247 and is available here