*Privacy looks to be the key reason for Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s attempt to prevent the public from seeing footage from police body cameras.
The Washington City Paper talked to Michael Czin, a spokesman for Bowser, who said the goal of the effort is to “respect privacy.”
“While the recordings could surface in court cases, they’d be otherwise out of reach for the reporters or the public — even in high-profile cases, like officer-involved shootings,” the paper reported while stating that Bower’s provision to exempt body camera footage from public records laws was found in a spending bill.
Bowser’s opposition comes amid a string of incidents involving officers, including the death of Walter Scott this month at the hands of Officer Michael Slager. As a result, law enforcement officials have voiced the demand for body cameras for police officers across the nation.
With her actions, Bowser is out to take a cure from states such as Iowa and Kansas, which have already passed or have pending legislation that would limit public access to police camera footage, the Associated Press notes.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier weighed in on the situation in an interview with radio station WAMU, In her eyes, complying with the public’s requests for footage would be too much of a hardship for her department. Lanier goes on to say that there isn’t enough to time for her staff to sift through footage and blur the faces of people who have been filmed.
We have to make sure that people are protected,” she said while adding that access to the footage would be granted to those who have a stake in the video (i.e. victims, prosecutors and defense attorneys).
Nevertheless, the Post mentioned that should Bowser’s body cam measure become law, future cases like Scott’s in D.C. “may never come to light.”
Chatting with the Huffington Post, attorney Donald Temple was not sold on Lanier’s argument. For him, a light can potentially be shined on individual shooting cases and problems such as racial profiling with public access to footage of alleged police misconduct
“There is no reason that public conduct by public officials should not be transparent,” he told the publication while calling Bowser’s decision to block public access to the body cam footage “political.”
“What are the police doing that they shouldn’t be able to show on a video? There has to be checks and balances. Somebody has to police the police other than the police.”