April 24, 2015
TO: Missouri Press Association members
FROM: Doug Crews, Executive Director
RE: HCS HB 762
Please contact your State Senator(s) in Jefferson City!
With three weeks until the legislative session ends May 15, MPA anticipates a full-court press by law enforcement to pass HCS HB 762, a bill to restrict police video from public access.
Changes are needed to this bill. For instance, police videos should be considered “investigation records” not “closed records.”
Contact your State Senator(s)! You can be sure local police chiefs, county sheriffs, their staff, and others in favor of shutting down police video are contacting their State Senator(s).
Below are some talking points newspapers may use when you contact your State Senator(s).
Please report any feedback from Senators to firstname.lastname@example.org . Thank you.
Missouri Senate: Don’t Shut Down Police Video
Attention will now focus on the Missouri Senate in Jefferson City as it considers House Committee Substitute for House Bill 762 (HCS HB 762), legislation that would for the most part close all video recorded with police body cameras and police car dashboard cameras.
The proposed legislation, sponsored by Rep. Galen Higdon (R-St. Joseph), received final approval by the Missouri House of Representatives on April 23. The roll call vote was 127 yes, 14 no, with 21 absent and 1 vacancy.
The Missouri Press Association’s position is: Police body camera video and police dashboard camera video should be handled as part of a police investigative report.
Currently, police dashboard camera video is a closed record until a criminal investigation becomes “inactive,” under the definitions in 610.100, when the matter is finally resolved or charges are dismissed.
The Missouri Press Association agrees that not all police video should be open. There are instances when an “expectation of privacy” exists, such as when video is recorded in a private residence, or instances where young juveniles or undercover police officers are shown in the recording. Such video records now are closed to the public, as they should be.
MPA is OPPOSED to HCS HB 762 that basically closes police video to the public. However, MPA agrees the General Assembly should set guidelines in such legislation.
The bill would allow a person to hire an attorney to ask a judge to review and release a video with certain restrictions.
However, the bill does not set a requirement for police to keep video for a certain number of days after an incident. What good is police video, if the video is erased?
Why should police video be open to the public?
Maintaining accessible police video will allow the public to see what happens when a police stop is made. It is important to allow the public to assess whether law enforcement is doing its job properly and also to support law enforcement’s position when a stop is made that goes bad.
This public accountability is good for both sides. It’s good for law enforcement, and it’s good for taxpayers who foot the bill. Having public support is important for law enforcement to be able to do their jobs safely and effectively.
After recent police incidents in Ferguson, Mo. and in cities in other parts of the nation, the visual evidence shown on police video (or lack of evidence when no police video was available) has played a major role in determining if police are accountable to the citizens they serve.
The police could potentially hide behind HCS HB 762 if the position of the Missouri House of Representatives prevails.
The Missouri Press Association urges members of the Missouri Senate to consider and adopt some middle ground on this issue of law enforcement video.
As the bill now stands, HCS HB 762 puts the police in the driver’s seat and the taxpaying members of the public in the trunk.
— Missouri Press Association
April 24, 2015