Within the last year, body-worn cameras have become standard-issue gear for many American police officers. The idea being that once every officer was required to wear a body camera, it would calm many complaints surrounding racial bias, excessive force and police behavior.
Recently, Michigan put forth a bill that would potentially exempt some body-cam footage from release under the state’s Freedom of Information Laws. As expressed at the House Judiciary Committee meeting, POAM actively opposes this bill- HB 4234- on the grounds that the bill -as written, does not adequately provide protection to law enforcement officers.
We believe that the beneficial effects of body cameras are not yet well-established. If the intended use of the body cameras is to explore the full truth of an incident, POAM believes there must be an objective standard in order to review any recordings documented on duty. In order for POAM to support H.B. 4234, the following language needs to be added to the bill:
“An employer shall not review or use an audio or visual recording except in the event a citizen complaint for alleged misconduct is filed against a law enforcement officer. Upon filing of a citizen complaint, an employer may review an audio or visual recording, which identifies a law enforcement officer who is the subject of the citizen complaint, provided that the audio or visual recording shall only be used for internal disciplinary proceedings.”
For more information please review the following letter from POAM’s Executive Board.