One of the hot topics in the news as of recent is making it mandatory for police officers to wear body cameras. As more cases about police brutality take over our new feeds, the idea of body cameras seems to be a progressive step. It would help to provide a clear cut view into what occurred in any questionable case. The passing of the body camera laws would appear to be an easy process in the eyes of the public. The steps to pass the law are funding the program, requiring the officers to wear the equipment, and ensure that the footage would be obtainable for public record.
It’s a fair and simple wording, yet many states are putting a block on the law before it passes in the House. Kansas is the most recent state to try to enforce this and proving how fast these specific laws are altered. The bill states that the footage recorded from the camera would not be for public records. The consequences of their actions would make the footage useless to private citizens and the press.
The original bill, Senate Bill 18, started to ensure every county and municipal law officer wear a camera while on active duty. The Democratic senator, David Haley, introduced it as a way to combat against the high number of shootings that involved officers within his district. Within one month of the filing, a substitute bill was submitted by the Republican Senators. It outlined that the audio and video recorded falls under criminal investigation records. As a result of this label, it would ensure everything taped would be exempt from the Kansas open records act.
The alternative bill includes a clause that the police departments would release the footage if it supported the case of an officer. Yet, if there was a breach of conduct as a result of an officer’s actions, then they had the right to seal the footage.
Dujan Wash spoke to the Huffington Post and said the following:” Look, we don’t want equivocal access to all police videos, we just want a public that has access to subpoena power, especially in cases of officer-involved shootings. Instead, the state of Kansas is looking over a substitute bill that would continue to put a chokehold on communities of color. The people being shot and killed by officers here are African-American and Latino. We’re asking for a little community control and limited access to the type of footage.”
Kansas is not the first state to try to pass a bill with this clause. South Carolina have already passed laws that strike body camera footage from public records. The states who have tried to fight the motion have stated that it violates privacy laws and they are doing it as a way to protect all parties.
What happens next will be decided on the floor of the Senate and the House. Lawmakers, like Haley, hope the bill’s structure includes making the footage public, and ensure the safety of all parties involved.