Officials Seek State Privacy Protections For Police Body Camera Footage

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — At least two lawmakers in Baltimore County want more restrictions on who is allowed to see police body camera footage, but the ACLU has concerns.

Ava-joye Burnett speaks with a councilman who says this change is all about safety.

As they are now becoming more available to police departments, body cameras are giving the public a first-hand look at how officers perform on the job.

As Maryland law stands now, the citizens and the media can request body camera video, and then eventually view it if their request is approved.

Councilman Todd Crandell of Dundalk and Councilman Wade Kach of Cockeysville are sponsoring a measure that would urge the General Assembly to consider statewide legislation that would regulate when the public could view such footage “without trampling upon the overarching goal of transparency” in police-community relations.

Councilman Crandell says it’s a layer of protection for innocent victims and bystanders for their privacy. But the ACLU of Maryland says state law already provides sufficient privacy protections. The ACLU has opposed legislation to limit access to police video. They say its critical that the public be able to view police interactions with citizens.

Councilman Kach is concerned criminals will abuse the system and use the video to survey what’s in people’s homes, then carry out burglaries.

Kach says that’s why he wants state lawmakers to act and restrict access to police body cam video.

“I am not trying to withhold these tapes from anyone who has a legitimate reason to want to see them, it’s for people who their privacy could be invaded,” says Councilman Kach.

If the council approves this resolution, it moves on to the General Assembly, but state lawmakers have rejected similar bills.

Earlier this year, a bill failed that would have required law enforcement agencies to withhold video footage from the public in a variety of police incidents.

The ACLU of Maryland has fought for more public access to police body camera video.
They believe the law is just fine the way it is, and more limitations are unnecessary.

“We have from the beginning noted and been concerned about the potential privacy implications of body cameras; but, we also recognized that existing law gave police departments ample authority to address those concerns,” says David Rocah with the ACLU.

Last year, Missouri legislature passed a bill that would allow the general public to only be able to access body-cam video taken in public spaces, and footage taken in private places would be accessible only to those captured in the footage, their families, or legal council.

County officials say the Police Department has finished training and distributing body cameras to about 1,400 officers.

The Baltimore County Council will vote on the resolution next week. Councilman Kach says the State’s Attorney also supports the measure.

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