The finances of restricting access to police video

By Jasmine Otam
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS­ — A bill restricting public access to police video is causing concerns about putting a financial burden on police agencies and the people requesting to see the video.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee discussed possible amendments to House Bill 1019. The bill, if passed as is, would allow law enforcement agencies to determine what police footage stays confidential and what gets released to the public.

Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association, speaking about the financial burden restricting access to police video could cause. By Jasmine Otam, TheStatehouseFile.com

Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association, speaking about the financial burden restricting access to police video could cause. By Jasmine Otam, TheStatehouseFile.com

“We do recognize that what we are dealing with is a very delicate balance of public records, public transparency, right to know, and also people’s privacy rights,” said author of HB 1019 Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City.

Under HB 1019, people in the video or immediate family members of the individual in the video would be allowed to watch footage obtained from police body cameras or dashboard cameras.

Anyone, including the media, can request to see the video. But if the agency denies access to the footage, then they must obtain a court order and pay the costs associated with getting a court order.

“If the citizen has to go to court and the judge does agree with them, hopefully the fees won’t be too high with an extra day of hearing, but we feel like they should be able to get those attorney fees and court costs reimbursed,” Steve Key, director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Association.

The bill also requires anyone underage and anything obscene to be blurred out before the video is released.

An amendment proposed Wednesday, heard before testimony, would require the agency to prove why they shouldn’t release the video before being able to require a court order. Another proposed amendment would require law enforcement agencies to hold unaltered footage for 270 days rather than the original 180 days.

“The 180 days proposed in the original bill from the House will be the longest data retention period in the country,” Jason Dombkowski, West Lafayette Chief of Police.

Dombkowski said he’s concerned about the cost associated with storing video for 270 days.

“A 180 day loop cost us about four terabytes, and when you start buying servers in terabytes the cost adds up quite a bit,” said Dombkowski.

The committee is scheduled to vote on the proposed amendments at next week’s meeting.

Jasmine Otam is a reporter for TheStatehousFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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