Body Camera Bill Presents Challenges
May 20, 2016
AB 1957 (Quirk) sets new requirements related to body-worn cameras. Specifically, boards would be required to review footage from such a camera when a peace officer who was wearing it is involved in, or was a witness to, an incident that results in great bodily injury to or death of a person other than the peace officer. Additionally, a judge would be involved in determining the protocol for release of the footage from a body-worn camera in the case of an investigation into allegations of misconduct of the peace officer leading to criminal prosecution.
CSAC has several concerns about AB 1957. Primarily, the purpose of the language is unclear regarding the goals of the review by elected officials, and what they are supposed to do or allowed to do once they have reviewed the footage. Additional concerns are more technical in nature:
- The language adds a new provision to the Public Records Act, but some provisions of the bill actually relate to topics that would fall under the Brown Act. Additionally, some of the provisions in the bill are not compliant with the Brown Act, and the bill does not address how these conflicting items would be reconciled.
- It is unclear who would be responsible for determining whether a meeting would need to occur to review footage. This would include requirements like scheduling and noticing the meeting, as well as knowing that there is body camera footage and obtaining said footage in a timely manner.
- The judicial review and determination regarding public record status is confusing regarding when the judge has authority to consider release of the footage.
- The language does not define several key terms, like “charges” versus “prosecution.”
- The bill contains several date limitations that would likely be unworkable in practice – for example, the footage is to be publicly available 60 days after an investigation into misconduct commences, but does not address what would happen if the review takes longer than 60 days.
- Some language appears to be limiting the applicability of public interest balancing only to domestic violence, minors, or witness statements. This presents serious concerns for public agencies.
CSAC opposes this bill, which will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee next Wednesday, May 25. We will keep counties apprised of further developments, and welcome your comments or concerns.