Wisconsin Broadcasters Association

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association testified Thursday before the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee about concerns with a bill to create statewide standards for the release of video obtained by body cameras used by law enforcement.

While the WBA supports the creation of a statewide standard for the release of video from police body cameras, some of the provisions proposed could create an “extremely cumbersome, inefficient, time consuming” process for getting access to the videos.

This is the testimony provided to the committee:

Please be assured that this is an important issue for the broadcast news industry. We agree with the Freedom of Information Council that there is a, “need for consistent statewide policies regarding the use of police body cameras, and the retention and release of videos produced by this technology.  While we are opposed to AB 351 now, it is our hope that further discussions of this bill could help produce changes that would make it acceptable to everyone involved.”

As the Freedom of Information Council notes in its review of the bill, “One main purpose of equipping law enforcement officers with body cameras at taxpayer expense is to increase police accountability and enhance public trust in law enforcement. That end is best served by affirming the public’s right to timely access.”

We are concerned that the process by which videos would be made available is extremely cumbersome, inefficient, time consuming, and would be subject to multiple delays before the video would be made available.  We believe that discussions on the process of how to reach decisions on what should be released and when, should be thoroughly discussed.  In the end, we would look for some sort of outside judicial review and oversight with the decision to release or not release being made by a judge.

Further, we believe that there needs to be more discussion of what constitutes, “in the public interest.”  Certainly there are audio and video recordings that if released could serve in the realm of public safety.  And there are others which need to be held for a longer period of time due to the nature of the crime, on-going investigations and whatever else the video is needed for.  Our sense is that the “in the public interest” is very broad and we want to make sure and that all parties would benefit from a discussion on how best to characterize many of the situations that are captured on video.

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association would be more than happy to bring our members in to meet with you or if you wish they’d be happy to host you in their television and radio stations, to discuss their viewpoints on how the system works currently as well as how it might work under the confines of this bill. 

We appreciate your consideration and look forward to working with you.

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