Body Camera Laws Raise Questions about Access to Footage

Source: Nathan Smith, Council of State Governments, The Current State, #72, August 8, 2016

In the wake of several high-profile incidents involving the injury or death of citizens during altercations with law enforcement, questions surrounding police misconduct and use of force have grown in recent years. Increasingly, policymakers and the American public alike are looking to and calling for the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers in an effort to increase transparency in police-civilian interactions. A 2015 University of Nevada, Las Vegas survey revealed that 85 percent of those in a national sample of U.S. adult residents supported a requirement for police officers to wear body cameras while on patrol to record their interactions. While support for such a requirement is strong and more police departments are expected to adopt body cameras, one question is fiercely divisive: Who should have access to footage recorded on police body cameras?