UPDATED THURSDAY: The House has placed the bill on its “special order” calendar for consideration Friday.
The Florida Senate on Wednesday passed a measure creating a public records exemption for police body camera videos.
With little debate, the bill (SB 248) was approved 36-2. Sens. Dwight Bullard, a Miami Democrat, and Dorothy Hukill, Port Orange Republican, the lone ‘no’ votes.
“It’s about transparency,” Hukill said after Wednesday’s floor session. “We have to have faith in our law enforcement … but (body camera video) can help victims as much as it can help the police.”
The measure heads to the House, where there is no companion bill, but opponents fear members there will pass the legislation.
Similar efforts to make law enforcement body camera video secret have been underway in Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina and the District of Columbia, to name a few.
Sen. Chris Smith, the Fort Lauderdale Democrat who backed the Florida bill, pushed it as a privacy-protection measure.
Police with body cameras can go through one’s home “room to room, closet to closet … and your neighbor can request that (video) … and can put the layout of your house on YouTube tomorrow,” Smith said, referring to the video-sharing website.
Smith’s bill creates privacy exceptions to public disclosure, including police body-cam footage taken inside a home, at a hospital or at the scene of a “medical emergency.”
A catch-all provision exempts any police body-cam video where an individual recorded had “a reasonable expectation of privacy.” It does allow the subject of any footage to authorize its release.
Michelle Richardson, public policy director for the ACLU of Florida, said she impressed on Smith the need for a better balance between privacy and the imperative to have a public record of police activity.
“But we started from a place that assumes the video needs to be hidden from the public and then we had to claw back from there,” she told a Tribune reporter.
In a separate email, Richardson added that senators “ignored the voices of civil rights groups, First Amendment advocates, and open government watchdogs.”
The bill now “could allow law enforcement agencies to turn what should be a police accountability tool into a propaganda device – giving agencies license to release footage that shows officers following the law and hide behind public records exemptions when their officers are engaged in wrongdoing,” she said.
Original article here.