Police Body Cam Issue: Handling Footage Shot In Private Homes


As debates ramp up over the use of police body cameras, law enforcement officials have taken up a common refrain, says The Tennessean: Yes, police interact with civilians in public spaces, and those interactions should be recorded with body cameras. Police work also involves being called to a person's home on the worst day of his or her life, whether that's to report domestic violence or a break-in. In Franklin, Tn., walking a fine line between residents' high expectations of privacy and transparency is paramount, the police chief said. That's why, although city officials have already funded a body camera program, they're holding off on rolling out the cameras until state law addresses how best to use them and what footage becomes a public record. “I believe that body cameras will become a basic piece of law enforcement work,” said Chief Deborah Faulkner. “But the first agencies that implement body cameras will create case law and I want to avoid that.”

Nationwide, calls to outfit law enforcement officers with body cameras have risen in the wake of high-profile deaths of young, unarmed black men at the hands of police. A letter Faulkner sent in response to a state Senate bill that would mandate the use of body cameras provides a window into a statewide policy vision that some observers say would be overly restrictive. Faulkner urges state legislators to add language that would mirror a new Florida law, though city officials have said they also plan to approach their state representatives to develop separate legislation. At issue in the Florida law is body camera footage that's taken in a private home; inside a facility that provides health care, mental health care or social services; or is taken in another place “that a reasonable person would expect to be private.”

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