The House passed a police body camera bill on Monday that aims to limit some requests for video footage for privacy reasons. At the same time, it sets up a process to ensure that important footage will still be available to the public.
House Bill 2362 passed on a vote of 61-36. The bill sets parameters under the Public Records Act for people who request body camera video and sound recordings.
Public records requests must identify the person involved in the incident or the police officer, or provide a case number or the specific time of the incident. The footage would be essentially free under the Public Records Act for those who are involved in the incident. However, other requesters would have to pay a fee for the footage.
The bill also requires local law enforcement to adopt certain policies on the use of the cameras, such as when a camera must be activated or deactivated.
Prime sponsor Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, described a number of situations in which the bill could protect someone’s privacy — such as the victim of domestic violence who gives a statement to police.
“If we don’t do this bill, your abuser can get a public records request and get the footage of that interview and put it up on Facebook to harass you further. That is wrong,” he said.
Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, voted against the bill because it allows different jurisdictions to set their own policies for using body cameras.
“There will not be consistency across all those jurisdictions that are using body cameras,” he said. “This bill doesn’t do that. It allows every jurisdiction to make their own rules.”
Schmick said that it would be too difficult to undo the rules made by different cities and counties.
Rep. Gerry Pollet’s, D-Seattle, also opposed bill, saying it will make police less accountable. He said there are already privacy protections under the Public Records Act.
“This bill right now will limit accountability and limit access unduly,” Pollet said. “Body cameras are here and we should be welcoming them for accountability.”
But supporters say that the state needs parameters for the police departments that are already using body cameras in Washington.
Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, voted in favor of the bill, which he said was not about adopting or promoting body cameras.
“This bill will take one small step toward making sure that cities, which already use body cams, can protect the privacy of those individuals who have been seen on the footage,” he said.
The bill also creates a task force to review and report on the use of body cameras by law enforcement and corrections agencies. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.