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Coalition Joins Others Calling on D.C. Council to Reject Mayor’s Latest Proposals to Hide Police Body Camera Videos

dcogcadmin | October 22, 2015

Coalition President Kevin Goldberg testified to the D.C. legislature Wednesday (21) on the latest proposals from the mayor that would limit public access to police body camera video, calling them “unnecessary and overbroad.” He also noted the process leading up to the proposals–directed by the Council to involve community input–in fact consisted of only two meetings with little revealed. These sessions simply “did not allow for adequate debate and discussion” and were “not an acceptable participatory process” for such important issues of the public right to know. Community members of the advisory panel wrote D.C. officials a month ago with these concerns, yet they were never addressed.

Goldberg’s testimony touched on several parts of the adminimstration proposals, noting 

–current law protects private information from release so broad additional exemptions are unnecessary, such as those proposed for video taken anywhere there may be “heightened expectations of privacy” — terms not defined in the proposals;

–an exemption for any video of “assaults” — without other limitation — would perversely insulate from view any video of an officer harming a member of the public or another officer;

–tripling the time allowed for agency response to video requests is unnecessary as technology is likely in the very near future to permit rapid handling of body camera video to blur any details needing protection;

–new authority proposed for police to record demonstrations and other First Amendment events entirely lack protections from wholesale surveillance;

–limits on who may view (but not obtain a copy of) body camera video are arbitrary and lack any clear rationale;

–authority to share video for research is to be limited to those fortunate enough to be selected for “partnership” with the MPD, suggesting the possibility that only favored entities get access, chosen without any objective criteria.

Calling the package “hastily crafted” and recalling the importance of D.C. policy as a national model, Goldberg urged further revision in a “more collaborative, participatory process” that can result in policy for video access that both protects privacy and provides D.C. citizens with information needed for government accountability.

The Coalition’s written statement is available at a link below. Video of the hearing is available here, with Goldberg’s testimony at 13:50.