Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Friday signed into law a bipartisan bill to address the use of law enforcement body cameras and public access to video recorded by the devices.
The bill was the product of hard work from the members of a Legislative Study Committee that included lawmakers, law enforcement, criminal justice attorneys, and the media. The committee overcame dramatic differences of opinion to generate a bipartisan bill that passed both houses on a voice vote. The bill was supported by law enforcement groups, the media, and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. WISN-TV News Director Ben Hart served on the Legislative Study Committee. Passage of the bill was a high priority for the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.
Under the leadership of Sen. Patrick Testin and Rep. Chris Taylor the Legislative Study Committee agreed on legislation that ultimately won the support of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Rep. John Spiros introduced the Assembly bill and Rep. Rod Swearingen, Chair of the Assembly Committee on State Affairs, held the public hearing on the bill as the legislative session was coming to an end.
The law requires any law enforcement agency using body cameras to establish a policy on how the cameras will be used, sets minimum limits on how long video will be stored, establishes circumstances under which it should be kept, and builds on Wisconsin’s robust open records laws to take into account the privacy of victims and witnesses who appear in the videos. The law uses the balancing test to determine if video should be released, and asks records custodians to take into consideration the expectation privacy for anyone who appears in the video and the treatment of victims and minors. The bill also directs records custodians to use redaction where necessary to allow for a video to be released.
“We’re so grateful to see the Legislative Committee process produce such a widely supported solution to the difficult issues raised by this new technology,” WBA President and CEO Michelle Vetterkind said. “It’s critical that we maintain Wisconsin’s tradition of openness. This law maintains that tradition without jeopardizing the privacy of witnesses and victims.”
WBA Legislative Committee Chair Lupita Montoto, La Movida Radio, Madison and most recent Legislative Committee Chair Don Vesely, WMTV-TV, Madison, were on hand for the bill signing.
The law signed today by Gov. Evers gives law enforcement the guidance it seeks regarding the use of body cameras, gives the public the transparency it expects, and demonstrates the ability of parties to come together on an important issue through the Legislative Study Committee process