Focus has to be on privacy
Grosse Pointe News, April 30, 2015
By Brad Lindberg, Staff Writer
The Grosse Pointes –
Advocates of police body cameras are wary of violating the right to privacy. “In cases of family trouble, for instance, most people don’t want that released to the general public,” said Dan Jensen, Grosse Pointe Farms public safety director. David Draper, an attorney with offices in the Farms, agrees.”A lot of times, the victim of assault does not want their visage out there,” he said. The same with witnesses and tipsters in sensitive or dangerous cases. “If the defendant has their name and identity, they may be in grave danger,” Draper said.
Also undecided is the type of bodycam footage available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. “Can you FOIA everything, or is some off limits?” Draper said. “The legislature has to determine what can and can’t be released and how far do we go,” Jensen said. These are the pioneer days of law enforcement body cameras. “What are the ground rules?” said Draper. “It’s going to be a huge issue for all criminal defense attorneys.” “It’s becoming an overall opinion that body cameras are the catch-all for everything,” Jensen said. “They’re not, but pros outweigh cons by far.” Draper suggested making officers notify citizens, either verbally or by wearing tags on uniforms, they’re being filmed. “If an officer’s searching a house, perhaps there’s a way for (the residents) to say you’re welcome to search, but I don’t want you to video this,” Draper said. He suggested limiting body cams to officers routinely tasked with arrest-level enforcement, but not, for instance, parking violations.
A bill in the state legislature mandates on-duty police wear body cameras and store data for at least two weeks. Farms police, in their third year of wearing audio and video recorders, retain data 30 days. “I have problems with that 30 days,” said Mark Porter, an attorney in private practice representing police officers through the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council. He said it’s too short. “What happens if the law enforcement officer is charged criminally or internally on something we didn’t know was out there six months or a year later?” Porter said. By then, body cam evidence that may exonerate the officer would be deleted unless stored longer than the state minimum. It’s not unusual for federal investigators to take 18 to 24 months to decide what to do,” Porter said.