Minnesota Law Enforcement's Request To Treat All Body Camera Footage As 'Classified' Rejected By State Administrator
from the sudden-respect-for-citizens'-privacy-incredibly-suspicious dept
Minnesota law enforcement's last-ditch effort to keep body camera footage out of the hands of the public has failed. Back in February, legislators made the first effort, pushing a bill that would have limited recording requests to the subjects of the recordings. It also included a 90-day destruction period for any footage not part of an ongoing investigation, which would have allowed agencies to destroy damning footage of police misconduct, provided involved subjects hadn't requested a copy within the limited timeframe.
After that effort failed, a coalition of the state's police chiefs petitioned the governor directly, asking for all footage to be declared "classified" until legislators further defined what footage is or isn't responsive to public records requests. Obviously, the hope was to make a second run at severely limiting public access to body cam footage -- and all done in the faux interest of protecting citizens' privacy.
"We're in a little bit of an awkward and precarious spot in law enforcement: More and more people are calling for use of body cameras and their potential benefits," [Maplewood Police Chief Paul] Schnell said Thursday. On the flip side, Schnell contends wide access to data amounts to "window peeping into events that may be highly personal, emotionally traumatizing and not intended for the eyes and ears of others" -- particularly when their interactions with police are in private dwellings.Given that police seldom seem interested in adhering to the limits of the Fourth Amendment and its privacy protections, this sudden concern for the privacy of people on the other end of law enforcement interactions is very suspect.
The good news is that this effort has also failed. No footage will be classified.
In his rejection letter, [Commissioner Matt] Massman wrote that he could not grant the request, because it would turn private data that is already public under state statutes—such as public arrests, responses or request for police services.There are still some privacy concerns to be addressed, as Massman points out, but there will be no blanket order issued to prevent the public from requesting body camera footage.
“That decision, however, is not a conclusion that the law adequately addresses the complex and sensitive data circumstances that arise with the use of body cameras.” Massman wrote…Hopefully, legislators crafting future bills will remember the general public is an important stakeholder. That was pretty much ignored during their first attempt, which was very much crafted from the law enforcement point of view. Fortunately, the House rejected the proposal and killed the bill. The legislature doesn't reconvene until March of next year, so for the time being, body camera footage is freely available to requesters.
“Minnesota’s data practices are designed to be neutral to technology,” Massman wrote. “The reality is, however, that body cams have the potential to collect substantial amounts of video and audio in private and very sensitive circumstances. Body cam data can include much greater detail than might be contained in a written law enforcement report, such as footage of a private home and personal belongings. Greater statutory clarity regarding how data practices laws should apply to such data would provide essential guidance for all interested stakeholders.”