Editorial: Ensure access to body cam video

From The Denver Post:  As Denver police get ready to introduce its body camera program next month, the department must do a better job of defining public access to the video.

The department’s seven-page draft policy that covers everything from when cameras must be turned on to how the video shall be uploaded doesn’t mention anything about public access. Yet these matters of privacy and transparency as it relates to body cam video are cropping up everywhere in the country.

Denver Deputy Chief Matthew Murray said the video will be treated in the same way as footage from HALO cameras. Public release will be at the discretion of the department on a case-by-case basis that will weigh whether releasing the information is contrary to the public interest.

That is allowed under Colorado law, which says only criminal justice records of “official action” must be released, which includes arrest and indictment information but not video of an arrest. Everything else is left to the department to decide.

This gives the police departments an excessive amount of discretion in deciding who gets to see what and when.

Video from body cameras will be a tremendous tool for communities, helping hold both police and the public accountable for their actions.

But overly restrictive policies on releasing video may defeat the purpose of having a tool that can reassure the public that interactions between officers and the community are going by the book.

Visit The Denver Post for more.


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