Coalitions Call for WMATA to Make Rules in the Sunshine for Police Body-Cam Video
Fritz Mulhauser | July 15, 2022 | Last modified: July 18, 2022
UPDATE 7-18-22: D.C. Council member Charles Allen has asked Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Anzallo to provide a copy of completed procedures for new body-worn cameras. Allen specifically mentioned setting “clear standards for determining when footage should be reviewed and released to the public” and asked the chief to “provide members of the public – particularly District residents and interested stakeholders – with meaningful opportunities to provide input on, learn about, and engage with draft policies.” The requests came in a letter to the chief today (18).
D.C. and Virginia open government coalitions sent a letter today (15) asking the WMATA board of directors, interim CEO, and Riders’ Advisory Council for an “open and full-blown public-engagement process” before Transit Police begin using body-worn cameras. Rules for the use of the new cameras, due next year, are under development but not yet available.
The letter noted the groups have been unsuccessful in public records requests to both WMATA and U.S. Department of Justice which also gets to review the rules as it’s funding the camera purchase with a grant of almost a million dollars. The D.C. Coalition has asked D.C. Council members to request the rules also.
The groups called on WMATA to publish draft policies and hold one or more public hearings before deciding on the rules, to benefit from a wide range of expert and consumer perspectives, such as transit riders, police and civic organizations, attorneys, news media, and criminal justice researchers, all engaged with the board in a public-facing dialogue.
“We believe,” said Thomas Susman and Megan Rhyne who head D.C. and Virginia open government coalitions, “that if WMATA engages in an open, public, and evidence-based process, the policies it adopts will produce transparency, enhance public confidence, and protect legitimate public safety and privacy concerns.”
The groups also asked to meet with the Riders’ Advisory Council and present the case for that group to join in asking the WMATA board for full public review and input on the body-worn camera rules.