Lawmakers in Indiana are working to pass a bill that would allow police the ability to refuse request from the public for body or dashboard video footage. According to the INDYStar:
House Bill 1019 immediately drew criticism from the Hoosier State Press Association, which argued the bill could undermine the purpose of such cameras in the first place: to increase police transparency and allow the public to hold law enforcement accountable.
The proposed legislation would compel police departments to show recordings of law enforcement actions only to either the person depicted in the video or that person’s relatives or attorney. For anyone else, the decision to release is up to the department.
Should the agency say no, the bill says, the person requesting the video would have to take the department to court and argue for the video’s release.
That’s a potentially costly option without a guaranteed result, said Steve Key, executive director of the press association.
“When you get to the crux of it, it’s still a bill that leaves all the cards in the law enforcement’s hands,” Key said during testimony Tuesday, when lawmakers began looking at the bill.
Key said that some police departments only would be motivated to release a video when it clearly exonerates their officer, adding: “The public has a right to know what police departments are doing.”
Probably not perfect? Right. In fact, it’s ridiculous and hypocritical. Of course government agencies, especially the police, would like to have the ability to withhold evidence of their employees in questionable situations. That way when they kill a pet, mentally ill person or otherwise they don’t have to feel the repercussions of such actions.
In most cases the taxpayer pays for the body or dash cameras – as well as most other police toys. In nearly all cases the taxpayer pays for that video to be stored and produced as evidence accordingly. It would seem logical that if the police, who are purportedly providing you this service, decide to withhold some aspect of that service than you should be able to refuse to pay for services not received.
Yet, that’s not how it works because only the government can force you pay for something (in this case, cameras for cops) and at the same time keep you from benefitting from that investment (in this case, seeing the videos). In what other service is this considered acceptable?
It’s 2016 and we’re still having debates about video being released? Yet, there’s no debate about whether the taxpayer is getting what they pay for? Has Indiana not learned anything from neighboring Illinois? They hid footage too and look where that got them? If this bill is passed it will only serve to further the distrust between people and police. If the police, lawmakers and others are serious about mending relationships with the public then more transparency, not less, is the route.
If police don’t want to cough up the videos from their publicly funded cars, gear and persons than stop forcing people to pay for the one size fits all government police. Officers should quit their current jobs, put up their own money for their business and offer their services directly to the customers.
I don’t demand the video from McDonald’s whenever I eat there but I bet if one of their employees killed someone they’d release the footage. Why? Or how do I know? Because they’ll want to keep their customers and it wouldn’t matter if it was justified or not. In both cases it’s best to release the footage and if they didn’t I would take my business elsewhere – an option we do NOT have with government police.
Lastly, let’s not pretend that any of this matters. This is not a serious discussion being hand. The police do not need a law to state they can refuse to give you publicly funded video recordings. They’ve been tampering with video evidence since it inception. There’s no shortage of stories depicting police who’ve been caught turning off cameras, disabling microphones and destroying video of ‘civilians.’ This whole discussion is merely to keep us from seeking the real solution…. demanding a better service of protection.
But I’ll leave that for another day. Until then, consider joining the CopBlock Network, downloading Cell 411 and/or purchasing Tunnel Case (to keep the man from spying on your mobile devices).