Body cam bill amended to allow public access to footage, passed by Assembly committee

Legislation that would have prohibited the public from accessing any footage from body or dashboard cameras involving a victim of rape, incest, domestic violence, or child abuse, regardless of whether there was any connection between the victim and the crime, was amended to allow some disclosure and passed by the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee in a unanimous 10-0 vote last week.

AB 459, as introduced by Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Alhambra), would have prohibited the disclosure of body came footage that depicted any victim of rape, incest, domestic violence, or child abuse. It also would have prohibited disclosure to any member of the public pursuant to this chapter without the express written consent of the victim or victims depicted.

At the request of CNPA, the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and several other groups, Assemblyman Chau agreed to amend AB 459 to remove the prohibition and consent provisions and replace them with language that vests government agencies with the discretion to withhold the footage if it was created during the commission or investigation of a rape, incest, sexual assault, domestic violence, or child abuse so long as the agency demonstrates, on the facts of the particular case, that the public interest served by not disclosing the recording clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosing the recording.

AB 459 would also require the agency to consider specified factors when balancing the public interests and authorize a victim who is a subject of such a recording, the parent or legal guardian of a minor subject, a deceased subject’s next of kin, or a subject’s legally authorized designee, to be permitted to inspect the recording and to obtain a copy of the recording.

AB 459 will next be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in the next few weeks.