Madison Democrat Chris Taylor criticizes new police body-cam legislation

Committee members voted along party lines to send legislation to the floor that would restrict public access to police body camera recordings.

Image By: Jon Yoon

Democratic lawmakers came out in opposition to a bill considered Wednesday that would make it more difficult for the public to access police body camera footage.

The bill, authored by state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, would exempt body camera footage from public record except in the case of video involving death, arrests, injuries, and searches.

In addition to these restrictions, the bill requires victims and participants to give permission of the release of body camera footage upon the event taking place in a home or other place with a reasonable expectation of privacy.

“[This bill] will completely gut the central purposes of body cameras, accountability and transparency between law enforcement and the public,” state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said in a press release.

In addition to the issue of lack of accountability between police and public, Taylor highlights “insurmountable administrative hoops” associated with requiring written consent from both victims and participants of an incident.

Notably, the legislation does not require police departments to issue and use body cameras, which all officers currently do voluntarily.

Proponents of the bill praise its intended protection of public privacy and the establishment of statewide guidelines for body camera footage availability.

Kremer’s primary goal is to protect the privacy of people unwittingly captured on the body cameras, according to the Associated Press. He also noted that because a video is taken by police and is a government record, that doesn't mean it has to be released to the public.

The Assembly could pass the bill as early as Nov. 9 with the declared support of Speaker Robin Vos. 

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