Miami Legal Tips Blog

Would New Law Hide Officer-Worn Camera Videos?

PoliceIn the wake of several high-profile stories about conflicts that have arisen between law enforcement officers and citizens, there have been calls for all police to wear body cameras to allow for a video record of their interactions with people.

However, according to a Bradenton Herald story, proponents of the officer-worn cameras now claim that a proposed Florida statute could have the effect of keeping those videos from being viewed by ordinary citizens.

The law in question is reportedly part of a bigger-picture effort by lawmakers to keep even more records hidden from public view. In so doing, the law’s detractors contend, people would not be as informed as they should be when officers engage in acts of force that go beyond what is reasonably necessary to deal with a suspected criminal.

As the executive director of the First Amendment Foundation notes, “The whole purpose of these (body camera) records is to reassure the public (and) also to protect the officers from unwarranted accusations.”

At the same time as the proposed law makes its way through the Florida Senate, the Herald reports, a number of local law enforcement agencies – including the Tampa Police Department and Pasco County Sheriff’s Office — have begun to implement video recording in order to prevent their officers from being falsely accused of resorting to excessive force.

The Florida senator who is sponsoring the bill, Chris Smith of Ft. Lauderdale, says he’s interested in protecting privacy more than in providing transparency – especially when it comes to the role of third parties who sometimes get their hands on video and then disseminate it, which could potentially cause people to be very wary of any camera wearing officer, even one who is simply approaching them for information or seeking to render assistance.

“In this TMZ age that we live in,” said Smith, “I wanted to make sure that a person is confident to have an officer coming into their home with a body camera.”


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