One Last 2015 Legislative Meeting Closes Out Police Body-Worn Camera Issue…For This Year

Since the publication of our article describing the Council’s prior (Seventeenth) Legislative Meeting as the last of the year, an Additional (Eighteenth) Legislative Meeting was added to the calendar. Grateful that the holiday bounty has granted us an additional legislative meeting, we are now convinced that the final Legislative Meeting of 2015 is now truly behind us.

In what was largely a rapid and efficient meeting, the sole focus of substantive debate was a single amendment to the compromise police body-worn camera legislation unanimously approved by the Council on first reading earlier this month. Like all permanent legislation, though, the body-worn camera legislation required a second vote by the Council, which came yesterday. Other than small administrative changes, the sole significant difference between the previous and current versions of the legislation came in the form of an amendment regarding when police could view camera footage, and under which circumstances.

In the version of the legislation approved on December 1, police were expressly prohibited from viewing body-worn camera footage prior to writing up their crime reports.  The intent of this provision was for police to provide their first summary of events in a case from memory.

The amendment proposed yesterday dramatically limited the circumstances where this “report first, video second” policy applies. Under the amendment passed by the Council on an 8 to 5 vote, it is only in cases of police-involved shootings where this rule would be in effect. In every other case, police can view body-worn camera footage while they prepare their reports, in order to inform their content.

As a result of the legislation passed today, 2,800 MPD officers will now be equipped with a body-worn camera, and the public will be provided broad access to footage via the Freedom of Information Act process. Restrictions were included to protect the privacy of victims of violence, as well as footage from inside peoples’ homes.

In separate action at the meeting, legislation was introduced:

  • Facilitating and strengthening the enforcement of anti-vacant property laws
  • Making strangulation a standalone felony offense
  • Expressing the unanimous Sense of the Council that Congress must enact comprehensive gun control legislation
  • Increasing the training required of “special police” officers

For a complete listing of all votes taken at the meeting, click here.