How available videos from police dash and body cameras should be is being debated again in the Missouri House.
Discussion of expanding the use of body and other cameras by law enforcement accelerated after the shooting death of Michael Brown, Junior, in August, 2014, and similar incidents elsewhere in the nation. Since then Missouri lawmakers have proposed both requiring more cameras, and restricting who can access the videos they capture.
Representative Ken Wilson is proposing the latter out of privacy concerns.
“Private homes are protected by the Fourth Amendment and we’ve got to make sure that we protect that. There’s also an expectation of privacy in the hospital room,” said Wilson. The events that take place out in the public, you have no expectation of privacy, so [the bill doesn’t] even address that.”
Wilson believes the bill has been improved after last year’s debate. The Missouri Press Association’s Doug Crews agrees, but thinks it still has flaws.
“This would apply to all public records. Not just video here but the public body would be able to charge for reviewing the records, and you’re going to get to a point where charges for public records are going to be so high that nobody’s going to be able to get public records,” said Crews.
Crews and the Missouri ACLU’s Sarah Rossi said another section of the bill creates a situation of “prior restraint:’ when material is censored before it is used. Rossi cautioned that section would likely be ruled unconstitutional if taken to court.
Representative Shane Roden (R-Cedar Hill) was not impressed by their arguments on that section. He said people at the site of a vehicle accident, for example, should have a right to privacy where a dash cam might capture medical personal cutting clothes off of injured people.
“It kinda irks me that we’re even having this discussion, that you guys would be against the potential of small children being involved in an incident on the side of the highway and you guys would want video of that stuff,” said Roden.
Rossi said it’s just too soon to pass a bill without finding a better balance between privacy and access to information.
“My issue with it isn’t that there shouldn’t be some restrictions in place. It’s just that there needs to be a bigger and longer conversation about what those restrictions should be,” said Rossi.
The bill hasn’t been voted on.
It is HB 2344.