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Quick Primer on Body Cam Legislation at the Capitol

17 February 2016 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

Community activists and advocates have been asking a lot about the TWO bills related to police body-mounted cameras, both being considered by the legislature during this 2016 session: Rep. Dan McCay’s HB300 and Sen. Dan Thatcher’s SB94.Screen Shot 2016 02 17 at 9.28.05 AM

You can read the full language of each bill at the Utah legislature's website.

  • Click here for HB300.The ACLU of Utah is SUPPORTING this bill. Our legislative and policy staff consulted on this bill and worked on the language for nearly two years, along with members of the media, criminal defense attorneys and other civil liberties advocates.
  • Click here for SB94. The ACLU of Utag is opposed to this bill.

The quick primer below is not meant to be an exhaustive legal analysis of the two bills, but rather just a quick review of important differences between two bills.

The ACLU of Utah SUPPORTS HB300 as it is currently written. The ACLU and several other organizations (including representatives of the media) were involved in the nearly two years of discussion that led to this bill. It sets baseline standards for policies that law enforcement agencies must have if their officers use body cameras. These baseline standards achieve a careful balance between privacy rights, media access, police accountability, and protections for individual officers.

HB300 sets forth basic standards for the responsible use of body cameras by law enforcement agencies. Many perspectives were incorporated into the basic standards set forth in HB300, and while the language is not perfect, it strikes a better balance between privacy interests and public interests, police transparency and community safety.

We OPPOSE SB94. It stipulates NO such baseline standards. It merely requires law enforcement agencies using body cameras to have some policy. It gives authority to write policy guidelines to POST (Peace Officer Standards & Training).

Community activists have complained to the ACLU of Utah that they don’t want the police to set their own standards for use of body cameras. SB94 will do little or nothing to improve police accountability or restore community trust in the police. There is no reason to think that diverse perspectives, other than law enforcement, will be incorporated into basic standards if those are determined only by POST.

We strongly recommend that our partners, supporters and fellow civil liberties advocates ask their legislators to SUPPORT HB300, "Body-worn Cameras for Law Enforcement Officers,” by Rep. Dan McCay.

Please ask your legislators to OPPOSE SB94 from Sen. Thatcher.

You can listen to audio recordings of the House Committee hearing for HB300, at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17, here. There are excellent descriptions of the various interests that need to be balanced in any effective body camera policy.

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