Kansas proposed law would limit who views law enforcement body camera footage

Kansas proposed law would limit who views law enforcement body camera footage

A proposed new Kansas law gets favorable reviews, for the most part, from both law enforcement members and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Labette County Sheriff Robert Sims usually tries to make sure the bad stays away from the good. He sees both in the proposed new law.

“One of the important features when you deal with law enforcement is accountability. I think it’s a must,” says Sims.

One law enforcement officer hits record on their body camera, and countless numbers of people can watch the footage once it’s uploaded. According to Kansas law, most of the footage recorded on the body camera is public record to anyone who asks for it.

“I think the public should have a right to do that,” says Sims.

But here’s the caveat…

“If it’s something that’s being conducted in a public sense,” says Sims.

Sims says the proposed new law would ensure releasing the footage would not invade someone’s privacy, if the video includes something like the inside of someone’s home.

The proposal would limit release of the footage to people in the video, their attorneys, and their parents if they are minors. A judge could release the recordings if the court believes it’s in the public’s interest or if it wouldn’t interfere with a police investigation.

“Still have to think about the victim, as well,” says Sims.

The Kansas ACLU takes it a step further than Sims, adding that most police footage should not be made public. But the ACLU also says the government needs to do more to balance privacy with accountability, with the public being accountability enforcers. The ACLU says without access to recordings, the public cannot fill this role.

“I do think there should be measures in place that still ensure accountability, even if it’s a matter that really shouldn’t be broadcasted, for example, on the local news,” says Sims.

Sims says the proposal should also include the need for a grievance committee (or something similar), with community members, who could still view the video privately and decide if law enforcement officers acted appropriately or not.

A version of the bill passed the state senate. A debate in a house committee, which recently heard testimony, has not been scheduled. Click here to learn what other states are considering, or have already passed, laws regarding body camera footage. Click here and here to read the proposed law.