In another example of the unintended consequences of new technology, the use of body cameras on law enforcement officers is on a collision course with the state’s public records law.
At issue: Who should be able to watch what the miniature cameras record?
This legislative session, one lawmaker filed a bill creating what he thought were common-sense exceptions to Florida’s broad disclosure statute for public records, which would encompass body-cam recordings.
But Sen. Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, had to temporarily pull the measure (SB 248) from consideration after objections from police and civil rights organizations that the measure went too far — or not far enough. A House companion measure was withdrawn last month.
The cameras’ benefit in memorializing police interactions has increased after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. Both were unarmed black men who died last year during altercations with law enforcement officers.
Moreover, Florida has seen high-profile disputes before over the merits of transparency.
The widow of race car driver Dale Earnhardt won a court case to prevent release of his autopsy photos after his death in a last-lap wreck at the 2001 Daytona 500. News organizations sought the photos’ release to do their own investigations into the crash. The Legislature later exempted such photos from disclosure without a court order.
Original article here.