Florida Lawmaker Refiles Body Cameras Bill

Sep 8, 2015

Credit MGN Online

A Florida lawmaker is hoping to revive a past effort to make sure law enforcement agencies using body cameras have set guidelines in place.

Last year, Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park) filed a bill mandating the cameras. But, after much opposition from law enforcement groups, he changed the measure to ensure law enforcement agencies using the cameras develop policies and procedures.

It failed to pass this session amid the budget impasse between the House and Senate. So, Jones refiled a similar bill for 2016.

“Yeah, it’s the same bill, same language from last year—just a new bill number, HB 93. And, this is just requiring those agencies who are using body cameras to create rules and regulations and training for the usage of the cameras,” said Jones.

That measure was supposed to be paired with another bill creating a public records exemption for body camera recordings done by law enforcement. Only the public records exemption became law.

“The public records exemption bill did pass, did get signed by the Governor,” added Jones. “So, this bill actually goes right along with it, because really can’t work without the other…But, the good thing is that one did pass, which now gives this more leverage to get the unanimous vote as it did last session.”

While groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union, supported the bill setting guidelines, they’re against the new public records exemption law. ACLU’s Baylor Johnson says it didn’t strike a balance between protecting private citizens’ rights at the same time as providing oversight for law enforcement.

“[It] ended up limiting how much footage from police body cameras could be released to the public,” said Johnson.

Supporters of the measure say the law provides a public records exemption for those recordings taken in a place where you expect privacy, like a home or a hospital room. But, Johnson says that’s too broad, and could limit the public’s access to certain footage.

“Certainly, there are times when officers have an expectation of privacy,” added Johnson. “This is a thing we heard concerns about, you know, chatting in the squad car. But, anytime, they start interacting with a member of the public, that should be something that the public has an ability to know what happened, especially if something goes wrong.”

Law enforcement groups say this measure, which became law in July, will encourage more agencies to use the cameras.

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