Missouri is making changes to safeguard the privacy and safety of our state’s citizens. Governor Jay Nixon has signed into law, legislation that will limit access to footage from police body cameras.
Over the last two years, stemming from the killing of Michael Brown, sales for body cameras have soared across the nation. Due to constant media coverage depicting altercations between the public and law enforcement, the demand for accountability is more present now than ever before.
Within the language of the rewrite of Missouri’s sunshine laws, it will now be specified who can access footage gathered by body cameras, when they can access it and what footage can be accessed by the public.
During the second regular session of the 98th General Assembly, republican lawmakers introduced language aimed towards encouraging more law enforcement agencies to participate in the action of wearing body cameras. The measure passed through the House with a vote of 154-1, received unanimous support from the Senate and was signed by the governor without comment.
Under Missouri’s Hancock amendment, the state cannot create a mandate on local governments without providing funding. This includes requiring law enforcement to wear body cams without providing funds for the devices, which the state does not currently posses. However, in efforts to progress forward with the protection of citizens and their privacy, the state has now provided guidelines for the data/footage recorded.
Upon implementation of the law in mid-September, access to footage will now be barred during an open investigation, unless a court deems otherwise. Videos will also be considered closed to the public under the following circumstances: video was taken in nonpublic locations such as homes, schools, medical facilities and so forth; the video is ruled reasonably likely to bring shame or humiliation to a person of ordinary sensibilities or in the case that a minor is involved in the footage taken.
Any person recorded on the footage, including voice, legal guardians of a minor involved and lawyers can request completely unaltered, unedited footage of that individual recorded on a body cam.
Numerous law enforcement officers came forth stating that if provisions were added to protect public privacy, they would be more inclined to wear body cameras. Whereas this is by no means going to stop the violence that has plagued the streets of our state, this is a step forward in safeguarding the citizens of Missouri and their right to privacy, while increasing transparency in interactions between the public and law enforcement, and will hopefully set examples for other states that are not implementing the use of body cameras or addressing the privacy concerns in this legislation.