Under a proposed plan from Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, Washington D.C. would release more footage from police body cameras than any other police department in major U.S. cities.
Initially, Bowser was in favor of keeping police recordings from the public, a position challenged by Chairman of Judiciary Committee Kenyan R. McDuffie. Bowser has since moved towards raising awareness about police and civilian interactions.
According to The Washington Post:
“We are closer to an agreement for a viable policy for body cameras,” said McDuffie, who pushed to make Bowser’s goal of purchasing cameras for all officers contingent on a mutually agreeable disclosure policy for the footage.
Bowser’s plan would not only allow people to view incidents captured on camera, but would also make it possible for citizens to have private copies of surveillance footage captured by police and video captured during traffic stops. Videos recorded indoors will be kept private, but can still be used in court. In cases of alleged domestic or sexual assault, privacy will be honored. The District will also blur the faces of minors in any footage.
Creating this type of access in Washington D.C. could change the dynamics of judicial privacy for officials and citizens, opening up the possibility to make strides towards ending and exposing police violence. The city has raised some concerns about the high million dollar costs of censorship on videos that would protect personal information shown on the released footage.
During the spring, the city contemplated adding 2,000 more body cameras to officers, but Bowser decided to keep the information from this expansion private. Other major cities in the U.S. have made some of the same strides, but chose to keep footage from being disclosed.
In Los Angeles, 7,000 cameras were issued to police officers, but incidents captured will not be made available for general viewing unless in a court proceeding. New York is still deciding if video can be released that would give access to an officer’s performance on the job.
Over the past year, police shootings and killings have been at the forefront of judicial controversies. The continuous push for added surveillance in other cities and in the District is a product of the countless lives taken by police officers during interactions with members of the public, especially Black men, women, and children.
Bowser told The Washington Post in a statement:
“Earlier this year, I proposed putting D.C. at the razor’s edge of body worn camera implementation — and despite numerous hurdles that’s exactly what we are poised to do,” Bowser said. “Nationally, we have all seen too many instances where video footage proved to be invaluable. That’s why we are committed to providing every patrol officer with a camera.”
Under the new plan, anyone who has had an encounter with law enforcement will be able to go to a station within 90 days to review recordings that may have been taken during the interaction. The footage would not be limited to those who dealt with the police, but also available to researchers seeking to study the impact of the body cameras worn by police. Video access would also be granted to court officials in order to investigate cases where police or others claimed there were wrongdoings committed by any party.
Katie Townsend, litigation director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, expressed concerns the District is not prepared for opening up this type of access, but she is pleased with the Mayor’s willingness to improve police relations.
However, Townsend told the paper they are “very hesitant to allow the city to draw distinctions between what are public and private situations.”
If the plan is put into place, all final decisions on releasing footage would have to be approved by Mayor Bowser.
SOURCE: The Washington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO: NDN