Lawmakers to again consider policy on police body cameras
Topeka Kansas lawmakers will again take up the question of whether to require all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras after a similar proposal failed to gain traction last session.
Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican, will hold a legislative hearing next week on the issue. He supports police body cameras but acknowledged several things must be resolved, such as whether to require all levels of law enforcement to use them, how to pay for the cameras and outlining rules for storing and accessing recordings, the Kansas City Star reported.
Proposals to require body cameras for law enforcement became widespread after the August 2014 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The officer was not wearing a camera.
"I see this as a win-win for everybody," said Rubin, who thinks cameras help the public and reduce misconduct allegations against police.
Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas, believes officers should wear cameras and always have them on while interacting with the public. He said the videos should be kept for 90 days and that privacy issues could be resolved.
In Missouri last session, some lawmakers fought such proposals and even introduced bills to prohibit the state from requiring officers wear cameras.
Missouri Rep. Galen Higdon, a St. Joseph Republican, said cities, counties and their law enforcement departments should make decisions about body cameras. Serious privacy issues, particularly for officers, haven't been resolved, she said.
Rubin said that Kansas' major hurdles are funding the cameras and managing the storage of the videos. He wants to a funding source before backing any legislation, noting that one possibility is to allow assets from civil forfeiture laws to be used for such expenses.
Video access is also a major obstacle. Law enforcement generally wants videos of police interactions protected for use in investigations and prosecution, while privacy advocates want protection for individuals and others — particularly media outlets — seek open access.
Stan Ross, CEO of Digital Ally, a police camera company based in Lenexa, said many police departments and local governments are becoming more supportive of body-worn cameras. The company has sold more than 50,000 in-car systems and 7,000 body cameras around the country, Ross said.
Even without lawmaker support for a statewide mandate for body-worn cameras, Rubin said, legislators still could address rules such as when cameras should be operating and how long recordings should be kept.