Friday, January 08, 2016

Texas body camera bill closed too many records

Our pal Eva Ruth Moravec has a news item behind the paywall at Quorum Report titled, "Obtaining police body camera footage may be tough under state law," offering up the concern that:
Stakeholders – and there were many – in Texas' new comprehensive police body camera law largely agree the legislation was a necessary first step. But there are serious concerns that the law, which sets policies and establishes a grant program to fund the cameras, will allow law enforcement agencies to keep the public from ever seeing footage that may show police in a negative light.
That's exactly right. This is an emerging issue about which we'll no doubt be hearing much more in the future. For a non-paywalled discussion of the bad closed records provisions in Texas' new body camera law, see this prior Grits post.


Anonymous said...

A "bad light" why have the cameras if "we the people" cannot have access to public officals "cops" doing something not lawfull ? So it a "cya" cover your a@@ bill, we'll see them do wrong but the public will never get to know ? Texas just- us at work again.

The Comedian said...

Dear LE,

As the American public has often been told, in various ways, "You have nothing to fear (from surveillance) if you have nothing to hide".

So why keep body camera records secret from the public? What do you fear that you are you hoping to hide? Oh wait, I know, accountability!

Perhaps all citizens should wear body cameras themselves. They are made small enough to conceal on your person. One never knows who is "wired" these days. It could be you, it could be me, it could be that donut you got for free.

Anonymous said...

That's ridiculous--the taxpayers spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on the equipment and then can't benefit from it. Texas needs throw out our current criminal justice system and start over. Get rid of the old and hire all new law enforcement. We certainly don't need the ones that need to hide their camera records, nor do we need the ones that want to help cover it up. Do these people really not know right from wrong? Texas laws need changing now. Why does Texas punish people with drugs in their pockets more harshly than someone who kills another person? God never said Thou shall not do or possess drugs; he did frown on killing others.

JJ said...

I appreciate both sides of the argument. Perhaps there could be an interim proposal to treat any and all recordings by government agencies as evidentiary in nature and appropriately processed in their entirety. Require that all of this "evidence" be immediately transferred out of the custody of the acquiring agency and into custody of an independent authority (i.e. Crime Lab Data Repository) for a 90-day retention period. Any "requests" for this data would then have to go through the normal processes, whether it be an FOIA request, or civil/criminal venue, etc. and the repository shall not release information until the established requisites are fulfilled (judge's order, legitimate public information request, etc.). And they have 90-days to make the request or the retention period no longer applies. The value of having all this data available for study would be overwhelming.
But the point is that all LE would have to turn over the unadulterated recordings to an independent entity and ALL requests for this data, whether government or private, be funneled through this entity and shall not be valid for evidentiary standards unless submitted by a representative from this authority.
The state fielded hundreds of intoxilyzers across our great land. This same principal could be applied for "data receptors" for qualifying data pending upload to the mainframe repository while assigning a repository case number for each submission.
Just a suggestion. Yes, another bureaucratic entity to deal with. And I agree that this is probably just another means for revenue generation for starving attorneys. Let's face it, folks. They're hungry and every little bit helps. :).
Oh, and keep DPS out of this one. That's a monster that needs no further responsibility, not that they would want it anyway. Surely there is an existing mechanism capable of assuming this function that is independent of any bias. An agency that already meets criminal background checks, pre-employment investigations, and deals with evidentiary standards already...the Security section of the Texas Department of Information. They would know how to handle this type of responsibility.
Change out those intoxilyzers and mandate blood draws based on a magistrates order with probable cause to alleviate the loss of the blow box and all the voodoo concerning them. Have that data immediately uploaded to the repository as "evidence" in its entirety. Not just the cute little excerpts that casually make it into court with any impolite information being strategically edited out by the agency. Yes, these are heavily edited present day and not in a way that makes you all warm and fuzzy about the true intentions of all involved.

JJ said...

Convert the intoxilyzers to data receptacles that immediately upload the data to the independent repository. And the submitter must sign an affidavit with each submission that the recordings are true and correct and unedited in any form whatsover.
We can call it the BlueTube law. (Yah, that's all I got. Feel free to propose a more fitting name for this law. I'd love to hear them.)

Anonymous said...

Anon 1/09/2016 07:35:00 PM, it isn't all law enforcement that opposes making recordings available, it is primarily the chiefs and commissioner's so get rid of those in favor of appointees that understand what we want. Otherwise, it wouldn't be practical to "Get rid of the old and hire all new law enforcement" and would waste resources in a "throw out the baby with the bathwater" kind of approach, the bulk of officers in the state right headed and right hearted from my experiences, of which I admit to having a few too many.