By Rachel Hoffmeyer
INDIANAPOLIS — Rules for accessing police body camera and dash camera video are headed to the governor for his approval.
“We were dealing with the very difficult issue when you’re trying to balance public records, disclosure, transparency, but also be protective of people’s privacy rights,” said Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City.
House Bill 1019 allows law enforcement to keep a video private if they can prove it needs to be confidential for reasons including an ongoing investigation or the possibility that it could interfere with a person receiving a fair trial.
A person depicted in a recording or that person’s family member must be allowed to see the video at least twice. The bill also requires local law enforcement to store video for at least 190 days and 280 days for state law enforcement.
The Senate version of the legislation would have required the automatic release of the video in the case of a possible civil rights violation or use of excessive force. But Mahan, the bill’s author, was uncomfortable with that change and in conference committee removed the language requiring the automatic release. That leaves the decision whether to release the video in the hands of law enforcement. If a person disagrees with an agency’s decision, they would have to appeal the decision to a judge.
“Just as much as I think the citizens should have an opportunity to have a fair trial,” Mahan said, “I think police officers who are having to make split second decisions and judgments, should they ever be charged, I think they also should have the opportunity to have a fair trial as well.”
While Indiana media associations said during last week’s conference committee that they mostly support the final version of the legislation, they also are unpleased that a person could be forced to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in court fighting to get a video released.
However, Mahan personally promised to be monitoring how law enforcement uses the legislation and to return to revise the legislation if it’s being abused.
Both the House and Senate unanimously adopted the report. Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, had some reservations about removing the provision requiring the automatic release of video under certain circumstances, but felt it was more important to have legislation of some form.
“My objective in passing this legislation is to show communities that with these body cameras that the amount of police brutality claims are gonna go down, the amount of claims that are being paid out by communities are gonna go down, and you’re going to see more cooperation from the police as well as the community in most of these situations,” Taylor said.
Rachel Hoffmeyer is the executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.