The Legislature Tries Again: Will California Law Require Disclosure of Officer-Involved Shooting Videos?
In the January 2017 edition of the Burke Beat, we discussed the California Legislature’s inability to reach a consensus on key issues relating to police body-worn cameras, and the implications of that legislative void. The Legislature is now close to resolving the legal uncertainty of one of those policy issues. As the LA Times reported earlier this month, the Legislature has introduced legislation that would change the way body camera footage must be addressed in response to a Public Records Act request. Assembly Bill 748, which passed the Assembly by a 77-3 vote, would modify how the California Public Records Act applies to audio and video recordings of police shootings, uses of force, and other significant incidents of public concern. The bill is now in the California Senate, where the proposed language has been modified in committee. The near-unanimous support from the California Assembly suggests that the Legislature will eventually reach a deal on some form of this legislation.
The current draft of the legislation would allow for a public entity to withhold audio or video of a critical incident, such as an officer-involved shooting or use of force, for up to 90 days under certain circumstances, such as where the release of the footage would impact an ongoing criminal investigation. Public entities that have been proceeding under the belief that they will be able to withhold all body camera footage from public disclosure should begin to reassess their future strategy, as the strong likelihood of legislation means that agencies will be required to produce key body camera footage in response to a Public Records Act request under certain circumstances. As the legislation proceeds through the California Senate, you can follow the progress of the bill here and in future issues of the Burke Beat.
A First: Body Camera Footage Used To Hype A Pay-Per-View Title Fight
Sports, pop culture, and public policy intersected earlier this month in the lead-up to the highly anticipated mixed martial arts (MMA) championship fight between UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and former champion Jon Jones. In preparation for the July 29 title fight in Anaheim, CA, the UFC released a promotional video earlier this month hyping the respective life stories of Cormier and Jones. Relevant to the Burke Beat was the UFC’s decision to include police body camera footage in the promotional video, which is believed to be the first use of body camera footage to hype an MMA fight or sporting event of any kind. The body camera footage is from a 2015 investigation by Albuquerque police officers into a felony hit and run that resulted in the eventual arrest of Jon Jones. As the use of body-worn cameras across the country increases, one can only imagine the many different ways in which the footage will be used once it becomes publicly-available. With the Cormier vs. Jones fight expected to generate over one million pay-per-view buys, it would be nice of the UFC to send some free tickets to the responding Albuquerque police officers for their small role in generating some of that revenue.
What are your thoughts on the proposed California legislation? And do you have any concerns about how body camera footage might be used once it becomes available to the public?