Body Cameras on Police May Soon be the Law, but the Public Will Not Have Access to Footage

The Minneapolis Police Department has already started to equip its officers with body cams, but the footage from this equipment will not be available to the general public anytime soon. Legislative action has already been taken to allow for body camera use across Minnesota, but this film will only be released for public viewing in rare circumstances.

Who Keeps the Footage?

According to the proposed law, most body camera footage will be classified as private data. The public may have access to recordings by body cameras, but only when they document the firing of a weapon by a police officer or when substantial bodily injury has been sustained.

This footage will be available only if the investigation is over, however, so police may be able to withhold these recordings for months. Even in cases where force is allegedly used, police may still be able to withhold video, when they deem it inappropriate for public consumption. This lenient policy leads some to wonder if this will encourage individuals to record their interactions with police, using their own cameras and cell phones.

What is Considered Public Record?

Body cameras are just one of the new technological tools being utilized by police departments that have led to privacy debates. By using body cameras, police will be able to record their interactions with suspects, victim and the general public, but unlike dashboard cameras, footage will rarely be released.

Most other types of police records become public as soon as an investigation is closed, but unless body cam footage meets the previously discussed requirements, it may never be released.

The Implications of the Proposed Body Camera Law

If body camera evidence of police misconduct does exist, it may never make its way to a trial. A Minneapolis assault lawyer can work within the legal system to have body camera video records released when the situation warrants it, but legal action will be required to make a recording public, in many cases.

Of course, most police interactions are non-controversial and do not involve misconduct or violence. Because so many variables are involved in balancing citizen privacy with police accountability, it’s likely that the topic of public access to body camera footage will remain a hot topic with lawmakers and Minnesota residents for many years to come.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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