Bill defining body camera regulations passes La. Senate committee

Bill defining body camera regulations passes Senate committee

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bill aimed at reining in who can see police body camera passed its first legislative milestone at the State Capitol.

A Senate committee passed the bill that is now a shell of its former self.

SB 398 addresses public record requests for body camera footage and originally required that the public could only access the video if they got a court order. The amendments approved Tuesday are far more lenient.

Court approval would only be required in cases where the video may invade privacy. For instance, when the video shows the inside of someone's home or young children.

The amended bill would give the custodian of the recordings the ability to decide whether there is a "reasonable expectation of privacy." If a request is denied for that reason, a court order would be required to get a copy of the footage.

The bill in many ways is only part of the puzzle of how to handle body cams. With some members of law enforcement saying in committee Tuesday that they are concerned about whether they can afford to store and sort all the videos.

"Think of this way, we collect data. We're in a library, and we don't have the Dewey decimal system and you tell me 'Newell, go find To Kill a Mockingbird,' and I've got 600 books in my library. I would be there for years," said Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand.

"Do you keep footage when an incident occurs, do you keep footage period? Someone has to decide that and I think that board will be the appropriate body to navigate that piece," said Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans.

There is a task force focused on laying out ground rules for body cameras at the state level. Though some members said it is working too slowly and leaving law enforcement waiting.

The bill's author, Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, said there is an urgency to establish policies on privacy because many agencies are ready to launch their body camera programs.

"We think body cameras are going to be a great tool for the public, but it's also going to be a great tool for the law enforcement community. So, we're just trying to find some balance between the two in terms of privacy," said Johns the last time the bill was brought up in committee on April 19.

Johns offered to defer the bill that day due to broad language, with the plan to bring it back once it had been amended.

The amended bill was presented to the Senate committee Tuesday morning. It now heads to the Senate floor for vote.

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