Indiana lawmakers reverse course on police video bill

February 25, 2016 01:30

In January, RTDNA outlined its opposition to a bill being considered by the Indiana legislature, which would keep police body camera recordings and other government video secret by default. The measure would place the burden of proof on the parties involved, journalists or interested members of the public to obtain a court order to release such videos, and pay the legal costs to do so. That bill, H.B. 1019, passed the Indiana House of Representatives last month.

In a letter to the bill's sponsors opposing the original language, RTDNA said in part, "To exempt video recordings through this proposed law creates an undue and inappropriate level of government secrecy.  It directly counters one of the primary purposes for having such recordings—establishing an appropriate level of transparency regarding police activity."

Under criticism from RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association, the Hoosier State Press Association and others, lawmakers in an Indiana Senate committee have amended the bill to shift the burden of proof back on law enforcement. The Senate Committee on Judiciary passed a revised version of the bill this week, which presumes police body camera videos are open to the public.

The amended bill, which now moves to the full Senate for its consideration, includes provisions to exempt personal medical information, protect the identity of undercover officers and allows judges to consider the effect of releasing video during an ongoing investigation.

"We appreciate the efforts of lawmakers to strike a better balance between the interests of law enforcement and the need for government transparency," said RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender. "All government records, including police video, should start with a presumption of openness."