Kansas Legislature Introduces Two Bills Mandating Speedy Release Of Police Body Cam Footage

from the thinning-the-blue-line dept

Two new bills have been introduced in the Kansas state legislature with the intent of forcing law enforcement agencies to turn over body camera footage in a timely manner. They appear to have been prompted by the family of a man shot and killed by police officers late last year. It took police 11 weeks to turn over footage of the incident. Even then, it wasn't as though the footage was given to the executor of Dominique White's estate. Instead, White's father was "granted access" to the the body cam footage, which means he was able to watch the video on police equipment at a police station by himself with no other surviving family members.

This is the state of Kansas' current laws regarding body camera footage. Very few people are given access to footage and, with rare exceptions, the footage remains completely in the hands of law enforcement. The only people granted access to footage at this point in time are subjects of recordings, parents of minors who are subjects of recordings, attorneys for a recording subject, or a person's heir.

These bills aim to change that. The Senate bill [PDF] would require law enforcement agencies to produce footage for these recipients within 24 hours of a request. It would also add to the list of viewers, albeit with an additional delay. Anyone requesting video footage would have access to it within 30 days if the recording contains use of force resulting in injury or death. Agencies would still be able to redact footage in certain instances (mainly to remove the name/face of an officer currently under investigation) but would have to remove redactions once this investigation concludes. And slow-rolling an investigation won't help police keep footage at least partially buried: the law says all redactions must be removed within 270 days.

The House bill [PDF] speeds up that timetable. Both require a 24-hour turnaround for subjects of body cam footage, but the House bill would force law enforcement agencies to turn over video to anyone requesting it within five days of the use of force incident.

Needless to say, law enforcement agencies aren't happy with the proposed laws. Critics from affected departments spoke up against the bill by insinuating citizens were too stupid to handle unredacted footage of use of force incidents.

Body cameras don’t have the same perspective as the officers, said Greg Smith, a special deputy/sheriff’s liaison with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.

“If you’re looking for this to be some kind of panacea to fix police and community relations, this is not the bill,” he said.

Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke said a body camera is a tool but “rarely tells the entire story.”

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that police officers have the same due process rights as every other citizen,” he said.

Shorter law enforcement: trust cops, not your lying eyes. Yes, body cameras "rarely tell the entire story," but that objection is never raised when footage clears officers of wrongdoing or shows subjects apparently engaged in criminal acts. And cameras are not a panacea. But burying footage behind legislated barriers is about as far removed from a "panacea" as law enforcement can get.

It's true a 24-hour turnaround time is extremely tight, especially if the responding agency doesn't have much practice handling camera footage and/or applying redactions. That being said, too long of a grace period for redaction just invites stonewalling, even when footage is edited and ready to go. Without hard limits on production, everyone's still going to be subjected to interminable waits to access body cam footage.

The complaint by the local police union is even more nonsensical.

"If this bill becomes law, law enforcement agencies would be forced to disclose the video long before their criminal and/or administrative reviews are completed," said Blaine Dryden, president of the Kansas State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. "Unquestionably, the disclosure with this much haste is not accompanied by any substantial factual context that a complete investigation provides."

Law enforcement agencies are Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to delivering rap sheets, surveillance footage, questionable social media posts, or whatever else puts victims of excessive force in a bad light. But they're oh so reluctant to turn over footage showing officers engaged in questionable behavior. Somehow we're expected to wait for everything to get sorted out over the next several months-to-years before we're allowed to take a look at footage officers captured in public while performing their public duties.

The clock is ticking on these bills and legislators pushing for the new laws claim they're being met with law enforcement stonewalling.

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, a supporter of the bill, said the issue of providing access to police recordings has been around the Legislature for at least three years, and she said opponents of the measure have so far been reluctant to negotiate.

If they can wait it out, the legislative deadline for bill passage will come and go with the bills still in the starting dock. That's only a few days away. Without forward progress, the bills will idle until the next session and may not be picked up again until next year.

It's unrealistic to think the release of footage will single-handedly reform law enforcement agencies. But allowing them to maintain the opaque status quo will result in zero change whatsoever. Hopefully, at least one these bills will move forward before the deadline and start making its way towards the governor's desk.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    YaTOG, 26 Feb 2018 @ 9:26pm

    Police reaction: ZOMG we're sooo totally screwed!!!

    Don't do anything wrong or illegal, and you'll do just fine.
    Do something illegal, yes, you're screwed, sans lube.
    Get used to it.
    Your protection of bad cops made this mandatory.

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

  • identicon
    athe, 26 Feb 2018 @ 9:31pm

    "... and she said opponents of the measure have so far been reluctant to negotiate."

    So don't negotiate. If there is support in the house for the bill, push it through, and penalise any non-adherents by reducing their funding or similar.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2018 @ 11:48pm

    “We cannot lose sight of the fact that police officers have the same due process rights as every other citizen,” he said.

    They do? Funny, I always thought they got more due process than every other citizen. I thought they got extra rights, like the right to view evidence before being questioned. Not to mention the benefit of the doubt in the minds of prosecutors and other law enforcement.

    And releasing footage to the public has very little to do with "due process", anyway. You don't have a due process right to have embarrassing evidence withheld from the public.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2018 @ 7:18am

    24 Hours may be a bit fast. Make it 48 hours. The simple fact is the POLICE LIE!!! They will make up anything to fit their own narrative. They do it all the time. The other police around them will go along with it because of the Thin Blue Line!!!

    They're worried because the Camera tells most of the real story, whereas they can just make up crap to fit their own story. These days I'd almost believe a criminal over what the police have to say.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Feb 2018 @ 8:12am

    "We'll get around to it... eventually..."

    "If this bill becomes law, law enforcement agencies would be forced to disclose the video long before their criminal and/or administrative reviews are completed," said Blaine Dryden, president of the Kansas State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

    Well yes, this is true, but if the standard turnabout for those sorts of things is never, then anything is going to be quicker than that.

    Much like the increased push towards encryption this is one of those self-inflicted injuries. Stonewall constantly and consistently long enough and people eventually get tired of waiting, resulting in bills like these where the police aren't given the option to say 'no' any more.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2018 @ 8:36am

    I find it interesting that the article said this:

    "Body cameras don’t have the same perspective as the officers, said Greg Smith, a special deputy/sheriff’s liaison with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office."

    Wasn't showing the officers perspective the whole point of body cams?

    Given the whole knee jerk reaction to any officer involved shooting I would think that a quick release of the video would would be something they would want to counter all the SJW posts on social media condemning the incident before any facts are released.

    That is if it actually shows the officer was correct in procedure etc. /s

    Other than potentially polluting the jury pool I see no downside to releasing the video ASAP. Evidence is still evidence no matter how many people see it.

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

  • identicon
    mik, 28 Feb 2018 @ 1:39am

    “We cannot lose sight of the fact that police officers have the same due process rights as every other citizen,”

    Well thats clearly bullshit right there. Police a given extraordinary leeway, leniency or outright immunity from anything like due process.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.