Body-camera bill in committee next week

After several years of opposing anti-access body-camera policies, CNPA is sponsoring transparency legislation to require the release of video and audio recordings including body-camera footage.

AB 748, by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would amend the California Public Records Act to mandate the disclosure of body-camera and other video footage “that depicts a matter of public concern”, defined as a use of force by a police officer or a reasonable belief that a violation of law or policy has occurred.

AB 748 closes a loophole in the public’s right to know by amending the CPRA’s investigatory record exemption, which applies to many of the records created and held by law enforcement. Any reporter seeking information from a police agency will be familiar with the assertion of 6254(f) as the justification for denying access to police logs, mug shots, arrest reports, and of course, body-camera footage. The exemption slams the door to access by mandating only the release of information, but not actual records.

Often when a reporter requests body-camera footage, the agency will provide a narrative summary of the events depicted in the video. Obviously, this is not the best account of the events when video exists.

The bill will be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, July 11, where it will face fierce opposition from law enforcement agencies who object to any mandated release of the footage. The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs wrote in opposition: “The impact of this bill is to degrade that long settled exemption by effectively stripping footage of its investigatory nature.” The California State Sheriff’s Association wrote: “Local agencies should maintain the authority to determine when and how such recordings should be released including whether they will be released at all.”