Under new legislation currently in Michigan’s House of Representatives, police body camera footage taken in your home or other private places would be mostly exempt from the Freedom of Information Act laws.

According to an article in the Lansing State Journal, police camera footage in private place would not be considered a public record thus not attainable via FOIA requests.

State Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, the sponsor of the newly rewritten bill was quoted in the article saying "One of the core functions of body worn cameras is to improve trust with the community, but this technology must be guided by a balance between the right of oversight with an individual's right to privacy."

Do you agree?

At least the footage would be available to the police and other state officials if something controversial happens.

Many media organizations believe the bill is bad public policy that does not protect police or citizens.

I do not understand that one, do you?

Again if something controversial occurs there would be video for officials to review and determine if it should be released to the public.  If the police decided it should not be turned over possibly a judge would be called in to make the determination.

Jane Briggs Bunting, president of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government, in written testimony wrote the following”

"Police body cameras are fast becoming a tool as basic as handcuffs. The video and audio from these cameras can protect officers from false claims of brutality and misconduct, and insulate communities and taxpayers from expensive police brutality litigation and judgements. It can also restrain them from being overly aggressive in their dealings with citizens.  The majority of law enforcement officers and agencies in Michigan and elsewhere are upstanding, conscientious public servants." Ms Bunting went on to further state: "However there are some bad cops out there and the bill as currently written would protect them and their departments from accountability by shielding essential public scrutiny of police actions."

The Police Chief of Howell Michigan, George Basar, believes the bill is essential to protect the privacy of individuals who might be the ones caught in embarrassing, but not necessarily criminal, video clips that could eventually go public.

Chief Basar was quoted in the article stating: "We deal with people in some of the lowest possible times in their lives, in their homes, their bedrooms, their bathrooms. Unrestricted access would then become fodder for YouTube entertainment. They are entertaining, but they also can be very embarrassing. We believe there needs to be a proper balance."

The bill, HB 4234, is not finalized and is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.

I certainly understand the concerns of Police Chief Basar, some embarrassing video could get out to the internet.  If that were to happen would the Police be financial responsible?

Would the news organization or private citizen which initiated the FOIA request be financial responsible for leakage of embarrassing footage that was not criminal?

If the police are called to a scene, does the privacy rights of the individual go out the window?

What are your thoughts?

Let’s discuss this today on my show The Live with Renk  show, which airs Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon, to let me know your thoughts at (269) 441-9595.

Or please feel free to start a discussion and write your thoughts in the comment section.

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