As police departments equip officers with body cameras, states are struggling to strike a balance between the public right to know and privacy protections, reports Stateline. This year 10 states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas—have passed laws on public access to the footage, says the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. South Carolina exempts footage from public disclosure under the state's Freedom of Information Act. Georgia limits who can request the videos and a pending bill would deem the videos “records of law enforcement” and not subject to disclosure under that state's public records law.
“What you want is to have some responsibility,” said South Carolina state Sen. Gerald Malloy. “[So] you don't just have everyone requesting it, placing it on the Internet, those kinds of things.” Adam Marshall of the Reporters Committee called the public records restrictions a “misguided effort” that is unnecessary and risks complicating existing public records laws. “Our position is that almost all are duplicative or unwarranted.” Existing privacy standards cover which body-camera videos cannot be released, he said, and creating more regulations might hide police misconduct from the public. The Seattle Police Department seeks to protect people's privacy by heavily redacting dashboard- and body-camera images it posts. People can sift through video by date and other tags to find a specific incident and file a public information request to view an unedited copy, expediting public access to certain videos and conserving police resources, said Mike Wagers, the department's chief operating officer.