Proposed Florida Body Camera Law Riddled With Exceptions At Behest Of Police Union

from the protections-that-only-protect-bad-cops dept

Florida's legislators are pushing through bills mandating body camera use by the state's law enforcement officers. So far, so good, except for the fact that law enforcement officers aren't really looking for greater transparency or accountability, at least not according to Florida Police Benevolent Association chief Gary Bradford.

Sen. Chris Smith was unable to slide his bill past the first panel review until concessions had been granted to soothe Bradford's "worries."

“Our concern is if the camera is on, and it’s required to be on through the entire shift, then it will capture video and audio when you have roll calls or when you’re walking down the hallway or just as you’re go through your day. You’re on a lunch break, you’re in the privacy of your own car with your partner, you’re having a conversation about having a fight with your wife in the morning, or something along those lines, and we just think those things are private, and they shouldn’t be part of the discussion,” said Bradford.
Except that's not the extent of the exceptions being granted to supposedly ensure the public won't be allowed to eavesdrop on officers' private discussions of their domestic disputes. Instead, the new language provides several options for law enforcement agencies to abuse to deny responses to public records requests.
PCS/SB 248 creates a public records exemption for an audio or video recording made by a law enforcement officer in the course of the officer performing his or her official duties and responsibilities, if the recording:

Is taken within the interior of a private residence;
Is taken on the property of a facility that offers health care, mental health care, or social services;
Is taken at the scene of a medical emergency;
Is taken at a place where a person recorded or depicted in the recording has a reasonable expectation of privacy; Shows a child younger than 18 years of age inside a school or on school property; or
Shows a child younger than 14 years of age at any location.
Taken without context, the list of exceptions seems reasonable. But match it up with recent events, and you can see where this set of exceptions could easily nullify this tool of accountability.

Medical emergency exception? Sure, HIPAA and other related laws make medical events and history very private information, subject to several sharing restrictions. But what if a cop is called to assist someone who's suffering a medical emergency or is suicidal or suffers from mental illness? Far too often, a call for help is answered with violence. Under this exception, the underlying medical emergency prompting the police response would allow law enforcement agencies to withhold captured body cam footage.

The exceptions devoted to minors would allow law enforcement agencies to withhold the sort of damning footage that contradicted the Cleveland police narrative in the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Without this footage, the public would have been left to rely on the CPD's claims that Rice refused to comply with multiple orders to put his hands up and "made a move towards his waistband," ultimately resulting in his being shot to death by responding officers. A park surveillance camera recording showed what actually happened: two police officers drove across the park, stopping within feet of Tamir Rice and and shot him within two seconds of arrival.

ACLU Florida's Michelle Richardson says these exceptions are blank checks for LEO opacity and abuse.
"If this was really about privacy, it would apply to what officers can practically release on their own as well," Richardson says. "So this is really just about shielding police misconduct. If police want to control the narrative, they can release what they want."
While not nearly as restrictive as the LAPD's policy of only releasing body cam footage to parties involved in criminal or civil court proceedings, it's still a recipe for disaster. Florida has laws in place that already restrict the release of police-captured recordings and this pile of exceptions -- while facially well-intentioned -- allows agencies to further dodge accountability for their officers' misdeeds.

Filed Under: body cameras, exceptions, florida, police


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 3:40pm

    Lets look at the application of some of these exceptions.#

    you’re in the privacy of your own car with your partner = planning illegal acts, such as violence against a person.

    Is taken at the scene of a medical emergency; = after shooting a suspect.

    Shows a child younger than 14 years of age at any location. = just about any public space.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chris Brand, 19 Feb 2015 @ 3:42pm

    "medical emergencies"

    Presumably any time anyone gets shot, or tasered, or beaten up, that would constitute a "medical emergency". Very effective way to completely neuter this form or accountability.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 3:59pm

    Without these restriction, it may still be useless.

    What good is video of anything if the powers or the process that be just ignores what any other reasonable person will interpret from the video? See the Eric Garner incident in NY.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 4:22pm

    Police cameras serve no purpose if they give the cops the ability to conveniently turn them off before commencing to beat the crap out of someone. That is, if they remember to.

    "Hold up, y’all. Hold up. Hold up, everybody. Hold up. We're red right now."

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/02/dash-cam-shows-police-striking-suspect-until-cop-tur ns-off-recording/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Feb 2015 @ 4:48pm

    Isn't the refrain we hear from the law and order types, if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear form us watching you.

    I guess they are doing plenty wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 4:49pm

    The penalty for lack of bodycam footage

    should be immediate execution of the officer involved. No trial. No appeal. No mercy. No pity.

    That's the exact treatment that police officers in the US have given to 147 people so far in 2015 (see http://killedbypolice.net/): extrajudicial execution without due process. Why shouldn't it be imposed on them when they disable their bodycams in order to commit assault, rape, extortion, armed robbery, and murder?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 5:23pm

    Would you look at that, it's Police vs Public again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 5:25pm

    "Our concern is if the camera is on, and it’s required to be on through the entire shift, then it will capture video and audio when you have roll calls or when you’re walking down the hallway or just as you’re go through your day. You’re on a lunch break, you’re in the privacy of your own car with your partner, you’re having a conversation about having a fight with your wife in the morning, or something along those lines, and we just think those things are private, and they shouldn’t be part of the discussion,"

    Their describing the sense of what it feels like to be surveyed

    And how the fuck do they think we feel about it, KNOWING they have the "legal" authority to do just that and more..........HELLO, use your fucking empathy, your halfway their already........unless you just dont give a shit.........and i have NO sympathy for you if you do

    Writing on the wall

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2015 @ 6:36am

      Re:

      Halfway is the closest they can get. We elect the smarter sociopaths to political office (or at least the charismatic Dunning-Kruger types), and they appoint the dumber ones as their enforcers.

      Easiest way to find out who's least qualified to hold a position of authority? Ask "who's in charge here?"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2015 @ 2:11pm

      Re:

      Chief Bradford's point isn't even a real or valid point. Those recordings won't be admissible in court. Someone claiming police misconduct would only be able to use the specific footage which applies to their case. Nobody's going to be listening to cops bitch about their daily lives--we don't have time for that when they are killing people in the streets.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 5:30pm

    Oh Shit, we forgot to turn the camera on....let's beat the shit out of this guy and make it a medical emergency.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    spacy (profile), 19 Feb 2015 @ 6:11pm

    Lying liars

    Wall Street screwed the 99%. The federal government then proceeded to screw the 99% some more. Cops and military officers routinely lie. According to the SUPREME COURT it is legal to video record cops in public. According to the same courts it is legal for same sex people to marry in many states. Actual sitting judges in some of these states refuse to allow marriage licenses for this. General Motors knew about and lied about ignition lock dangers and deaths. Probably missing a few more examples here.
    What. The. Hell. Is. Next?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 10:10pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 20 Feb 2015 @ 12:06am

    This is what judges are for. Make an argument for anything not automatically exempted in court or a FOIA request.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 20 Feb 2015 @ 2:11am

    I can see it now...

    Officer: I'll now be turning off my camera due to the presence of a medical emergency. *flips camera switch*
    Bystander/Suspect: I don't see any emergency.
    Officer: *pulls out baton/tazer* Not yet you don't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2015 @ 4:32am

    he doth protest too much

    You know what worries good cops about body cams? The safety and willingness to talk of informants and domestic violence victims.

    What do crooked cops worry about? The job security of domestically violent cops.

    Pay attention, talk to your local cops, and figure out which kind they are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 20 Feb 2015 @ 5:13am

    Crazy

    Turn them OFF? There's already a mechanism in place for everything they want the cameras off for in court. Any prosecutor or defense lawyer can petition the Judge to have sections of video/audio excluded from what the jury sees.

    Even worse is the "medical emergency" part. Since most of those are MVA's, they'd be the MOST requested video by insurance companies before paying out claims.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul Keating, 20 Feb 2015 @ 7:14am

    Sliding Scale of Privacy........

    you’re in the privacy of your own car with your partner" ....

    Hummm so if you are in a car AND you are a policeman you are in a "private" area not to be filmed (even indirectly) BUT....if you are Joe Public and you are in your car you are in ...... "public"???????

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 20 Feb 2015 @ 7:37am

    Wait wait wait, THEY are concerned about privacy?

    So, now the cops are concerned about privacy. And they are talking about what goes on in their cars and while they are out in public? Why are cops and organizations like them pushing for so much surveillance then huh? The exceptions to the bills should not have been allowed until at least all license plate scanners and similar tracking had been completely halted. They are pretty clearly just trying to maintain their system of cops being above the law, and everyone else gets to be monitored. Despicable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2015 @ 9:12am

    Already exempt

    There are already FOIA exemptions allowing agencies to redact private information. But, notably, the subject of that information can request the unredacted data on themselves, while the new law seems to lack that feature.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2015 @ 10:02am

    Do the cops know...

    I love this position! The police union is correct, there are times when someone might not want to be recorded -- by anything -- and there needs to be an off switch.

    I support the cops as they fight to sustain their right to privacy and, once they've successfully neutered this ill-considered bodycam legislation, I pray that they'll then move to address the same security flaws with cell phones, computers, televisions, game consoles, traffic cameras, automatic plate scanners, etc... These guys are our last bastion of hope against an ever-growing surveillance state.

    GO POLICE!

    (Before the hate parade begins, let me clarify that I am being intentionally facetious.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2015 @ 12:24pm

    If police have to wear bodycams,so should every other politician and public official while they're on our dime.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stacy, 24 Feb 2015 @ 12:48pm

    Record the Police

    Visit http://www.policestreams.net and never lose your videos to the police or anyone else again. Regardless if the police record with body cams or not, all citizen need to record police to keep them accountable for their actions. As soon as you hit record, your video is streamed to the cloud for safe storage. No video will be stored on your phone at all so the police will have no reason to take your phone. They only get a copy of your video when and if you give it to them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wireless camera, 25 Feb 2015 @ 7:48am

    Wireless cameras

    Digital professional micro camera full HD

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    This professional digital camera was originally designed for police and law enforcement agencies, and is now available also for you, to allow you to get the best out of your professional investigation activities, as well as from your sport or leisure videos.

    http://www.endoacustica.com/digital-professional-camera.htm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kaze.co.il (profile), 20 May 2015 @ 2:57am

    How they gonna kill now?

    a little set back:)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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