Body camera bill up for crucial vote in committee next week

Nearly a year after its last hearing, CNPA’s sponsored legislation to require the disclosure of police video or audio footage related to a police shooting is up for a vote on Tuesday.

After lying in wait, the bill was amended this month to mirror the policy recently enacted by the Los Angeles Police Department which resulted in the first ever disclosure of video footage this week.

AB 748, by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would add a requirement for disclosure of police records, including audio and video footage that depicts a critical incident, as defined to mean a use of force by a police officer or an officer’s violation of law or policy.

In amending the California Public Records Act’s investigatory record exemption, the bill furthers the public’s right of access by giving a public records requester a much stronger foothold to enforce the right of access against an agency for video footage. The current exemption it wielded by agencies like a shield to prevent any access to the bulk of information collected by police.

That has changed somewhat since AB 748 was first heard. Cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and San Francisco have all adopted increasingly liberal release policies in officer-involved shootings. While law enforcement advocates in the Capitol still oppose the bill, they increasingly recognize that transparency is curative to public discourse about police and community relations.

Despite increasing willingness to release footage, the current state of the CPRA still demands legislative action. The Los Angeles Times reported that, “[while] civil liberties advocates hailed the release as a radical shift for a department that has rarely made such recordings public since its officers began wearing body cameras in 2015, they also expressed concern about the ‘highly edited’ nature of what the LAPD revealed Wednesday.”

AB 748 would set forth a statewide, minimum standard for require the release of footage, and would significant further the public’s ability to enforce the release of body camera and other footage. The bill will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, along with 62 other Assembly bills.