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Post Calls for “Intelligent Accountability” as Part of National Agenda for Better Policing – Including Public Access to Body Camera Video

dcogcadmin | May 20, 2015

UPDATED 5-23-15 – in another editorial Thursday (21) the Post urged full funding to outfit all officers with cameras and urged that “access to the police video should not be a bar”  to moving ahead.

The writers suggested the Council and executive “forgo new legal provisions” on access (translation: the mayor drops the proposed exemption of police video from public records laws and the Council drops its demand for new rules assuring access).  

Instead, says the Post, everyone should work within the existing exemptions that already exist “to deal with justifiable concerns.”


5-20-15 – The Washington Post in Tuesday’s (19) print edition used the slowdown of shipments of military gear for domestic police use, announced by the White House Monday, as the occasion for editorializing on broader topics of police reform and repeating its position in favor of public access to police body camera video.

The paper urged the federal executive branch and Congress not to stop with the more careful choice of military equipment for civilian distribution, but to work to encourage ideas such as better collection and use of data, for example, systems to give early warning of problem officers and mandatory tracking of use of force (on the latter, calling it “astounding this isn’t taking place”).

On body cameras, the Post said the Department of Justice can be a “force for intelligent accountabiity” as police work through “difficult privacy issues” and set standards for retention and public release of body camera video.

The paper had joined the public chorus in favor of public access to camera footage earlier with an April opinion piece saying officials should “ensure that the public benefits from this effort” to adopt the cameras and were “wrong” to propose complete exemption from D.C. public records laws —  reference to draft legislation included in the mayor’s budget.

But blanket exemption may still be an idea in play in Washington, D.C., according to the paper’s news columns.

Aaron Davis wrote also in Tuesday’s print edition of continued sparring between the D.C. executive and legislative branches as votes draw near in the full D.C. Council on the budget.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Kenyan McDuffie last week in committee (May 12), following the recommendation of almost all witnesses at a five-hour roundtable May 7 (video here, look under Committee on the Judiciary; Open Government Coalition testimony at 2:56:48), rejected the mayor’s idea of putting all police video outside the D.C. public records law. Instead the budget as passed on to the full Council provides half the requested body-worn cameras for the Metropolitan Police Department and “requires the Mayor to send proposed rules and regulations to the Council relating to body-worn camera recordings, including standards to promote public access to the footage while ensuring privacy.” See Chairman’s release on the markup, here. 

Davis reported the mayor responded last week at a press event and on Twitter calling on D.C. residents to back her “bold” proposal to outfit all police with cameras and to “hold accountable” Council members who oppose — without reference to the access issue.