Body Cameras Bill Passes First Senate Panel, Attempts To Address Privacy Concerns

Feb 16, 2015

Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale) speaking before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Monday about the body cameras bill.
Credit Florida Channel

A bill that previously mandated law enforcement wear body cameras, which passed its first Senate panel Monday, has a new change. It’s a measure that now allows law enforcement agencies to decide whether to use the cameras and puts forth standard guidelines.

The newest change to Sen. Chris Smith’s (D-Fort Lauderdale) bill—made Monday—is aimed at addressing residents’ privacy concerns.  

“A place where someone reasonably expects privacy, that video is not subject to the Sunshine or is not subject to anyone just coming in seeing it,” said Smith. “So, if a law enforcement officer comes into your home and has a body camera on, your neighbor just can’t go down and see the video of the inside of your house. So, law enforcement can see it and you can see or anyone you authorize to see the video.”

But, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s Michelle Richardson disagrees with the new language.

“To be clear, this does not actually prevent law enforcement from capturing the video, and it doesn’t prevent them from releasing it, whenever they see fit,” said Richardson. “The only thing it does is it removes the public’s access to that video, no matter how important it is, the public interest, or even if it occurred in public.”

Still, the measure passed the panel 4-1 with  Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) voting against the measure, after echoing the ACLU’s concerns. Meanwhile, a similar measure by Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park) passed its first House panel last week.

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