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Body Cameras on Police Officers: Who Has the Right to the Footage?

In the last two years, citizens around the United States are calling for changes in the policies and procedures of police officers and other law enforcement agents. One of the main requests relates to the use of body cameras on police officers as they go about their jobs so as to protect men and women from officers who are not following protocol and/or acting outside the scope of their badge. In many municipalities, the use of body cameras on police officers is still in the experimental phase in an attempt to verify the extent to which body cameras can deter misconduct and bad acts from police officers while out in the field.

The Push Toward Body Cameras: the Positives

With the widespread trend of these body cameras, many are praising the use of these devices, stating that the use will deter police misconduct and hopefully, decrease the number of innocent men and women, especially those in the African American communities, who have received the violent brunt of police use of force. Though the evidence of the body cameras speak volumes about their deterrence abilities, there are many constitutional and financial issues that are linked to the use of such cameras. Largely, the main issues deal with privacy rights, retention abilities, funding for data storage, access, and public record laws. With the encouragement of the use of body cameras, 30 states, as of February 20, 2015, have recommended legislation that will deal with the privacy issues surrounding the body camera footage and who should not only own the footage, but should be able to have access to it as well.

Florida’s Body Camera Legislation

The Florida legislature has dealt with two related bills dealing with body cameras. The first bill, which was passed by both the House and the Senate and is currently on its way to the governor for approval, provides that police departments are allowed to use body cameras on police officers and other law enforcement officials. The bill has been cited as being “permissive,” making it up to the discretion of the police department and its officers regarding whether to wear the body cameras in the first place, rather than creating a requirement of use.

The Privacy Bill for Body Cameras

The second bill deals with the privacy issues associated with the body cameras, limiting the access and use to a specified scope. Under the second bill, the provisions provide that the footage from the body camera is confidential when the recording is of a private residence, a facility that provides mental health, health care, or other social services, or any other location where a person may have the expectation of privacy.

What Factors Could Determine Access to Body Camera Footage?

In addition, the bill regulates who may have access to the footage, specifically any other government agency that might need it pursuant to the scope of its responsibilities, a person who was recorded by the body camera, a person who may not be in the footage but whose place of residence or lodging was recorded, and as otherwise directed by a court order. The bill provides for other exceptions where the footage may be relevant, and it is up to the court to decide whether to release the footage based on many of the following factors:

  • If the information gleaned from the footage would resolve a legal issue where the person is a party to the legal matter;
  • If disclosure is part of a compelling interest;
  • Whether disclosure would reveal a sensitive source of information;
  • Where the footage could be redacted to protect privacy concerns;
  • Whether harm of reputation or may jeopardize the safety of a person as a result of the footage; and
  • Whether the confidentiality or disclosure of the footage would cause imminent harm to the administration of justice.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you or a loved one has been been a victim of inappropriate use of police force, or believe that the police officers did not handle your case appropriately, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik immediately. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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