Should the Public Have Access to Police Body Cam Videos?
When New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act took effect, nobody envisioned police wearing body cameras.
That’s according to the top Republican in the NJ Assembly, who told Townsquare Media exclusively that he planned to work with the acting State Attorney General to clearly define when police body cam videos should and should not be subject to the OPRA statute.
“Originally under OPRA, citizens were able to get documents because technically those documents were owned by the citizens, but things have changed quite a bit,” said Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield). “If we’re going to have police officers with body cameras on them all the time the types of videos that might be available under OPRA may cause invasion of privacy to citizens who never consented to be videotaped by the police.”
As an example, Bramnick said there could be a domestic violence allegation where police enter a private home, videotape everything and no one is arrested, but the video might still be open to the public if they file an OPRA request.
“Is that not an invasion of privacy? Now the public gets to view the inside of your house, interactions of your family with the police, maybe pictures of your children. We need to carefully restrict any type of videos that have no real public importance,” the assemblyman said.
Bramnick said he had no concerns about allowing citizens access to police body camera videos shot in public and under certain circumstances videos recorded in a private could ultimately be made available under the OPRA statute. He felt sensible limitations must be put in place quickly.
“Videotaping what’s inside a private residence, third party innocent people in the video, those issues are ones we must carefully discuss and review as we have more and more body cameras,” Bramnick said.
On July 28, 2015, acting State Attorney General John Hoffman issued a 24-page directive regarding police body worn cameras (BWCs) and stored BWC recordings. That can be found at http://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/directives/2015-1_BWC.pdf