A California Assembly member is trying to make body camera footage more accessible to the public in an effort to increase police transparency. Assembly member Phil Ting says a new law will go into effect on July 1 that will require law enforcement officials to release body-camera footage within 45 days following a critical incident.
"Body cameras got deployed throughout the state as a way to bridge the gap in public trust. Unfortunately, as the public has requested information and video footage, oftentimes it gets rejected without any reason," Ting told KFI News.
A critical incident is defined as any case that involves an officer firing their weapon causing the death or great bodily harm. One provision in AB 748 allows police departments to delay the footage for up to an additional 30-days if they believe releasing it might interfere with an active investigation.
"You have to really prove that the reason they're withholding the coverage is actually greater than the public trust it would actually engender," Ting said. "They have to be much more specific."
Sponsors of the bill say giving the public access to the body camera footage is key to repairing police-community relations and can even exonerate officers who might be under investigation.
"When people can't get access to information, they often think the worst. So, even if it does exonerate the officer, oftentimes in these types of tense situations, they don't give the officer the benefit of the doubt," Ting said.
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