By Ashley Steeb
Editor’s note: This is the 12th in a series of stories about new laws that are taking effect, most of them on July 1.
INDIANAPOLIS – Accountability for law enforcement is expected to increase with the implementation of police body cameras and new rules on what agencies should do with the video.
“Since the Ferguson issue, there’s many law enforcement agencies that either have or are planning on putting police body cameras on their police officers,” said Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City. “They’re there for their safety, they’re there for the public’s safety, and they’re for accountability. Accountability for the public and accountability for the officer.”
According to West Lafayette Chief of Police Jason Dombkowski there has been no prior legislation in Indiana concerning the guidelines of who was able to view the camera recordings.
“It started to cause some real questions about really balancing public access to this video versus right to privacy,” said Dombkowski. “That was a real struggle, I think, the legislature had to deal with. What are these privacy issues as we take a camera in law enforcement duty into somebody’s private residence?”
House Bill 1019, which takes effect July 1, gives law enforcement agencies guidelines of who can view the recordings.
It allows a person in the recording, the owner of the property in the recording, a crime victim and anyone who suffered an injury or property damage to view the recordings twice.
But, police can keep a video private if they can prove it will significantly harm a person or the public, cause an unfair trial, affect an investigation or not be in the public’s best interest.
“I think this is a prime example of how our democracy works,” said Mahan. “It was vetted. All the major players were at the table. There were agreements reached and amendments approved.”
The new law also mandates how long law enforcement agencies have to store their recordings. According to Dombkowski, this was a main issue for the police.
“The ACLU advised they didn’t want police departments to hold onto video of citizens forever, and we didn’t want to hold onto video forever,” said Dombkowski. “But how long is prudent? How long is right? And the legislature weighed in on that, kind of where I thought they might.”
Police departments will have to retain video for 190 days—10 days longer than the standard amount of time for a claim of tort.
Dombkowski said the law will help both citizens and law enforcement officers.
“The goal of this legislation was to give guidance to law enforcement on release of video and retention of video,” said Dombkowsi. “I think this bill finds that balance. It does give the access, but it also protects Hoosiers’ privacy.”
Ashley Steeb is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.