• DC Mayor: I Decide What Body Cam Footage Is Important

    New proposals submitted by District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser to the city council would, in many cases, give the mayor final say in which body camera videos are released to the public.

    Under Bowser’s proposal, all footage of assaults, along with footage of interactions that lead to charges against an officer or if an officer files charges against a member of the public, The Washington Post reports.

    In these cases, the city would only release the body camera footage if it is forced to do so by a court or if Bowser or the police chief think it would be of interest to citizens.

    The move by Bowser walks back several provisions she announced in a plan less than a month ago that would allow limited access to video under these circumstances.

    Gregg Pemberton, a spokesman for the DC Police Union, which has lobbied heavily for greater public access to the police body camera videos, told The Daily Caller News Foundation the mayor’s changes represent a blow to government transparency.

    “This is another veiled attempt at avoiding transparency in public safety,” he said. “The point of the cameras is to allow the citizens we protect to observe police conduct and create accurate records of events involving police.”

    According to Pemberton, Freedom of Information Act laws already allow footage to be retained if it is being used in a pending criminal investigation.

    “Why wouldn’t this be enough to satisfy the withholding of the footage?” he asked. “The answer most likely that the mayor wants to be able to decide what is released and what is not. At the end of the day, body camera videos are government records and should be made available to the public in accordance with federal laws.”

    A spokesman for Bowser did not return request for comment.

    Originally, Bowser wanted to exempt all footage captured on the body cameras from public access, citing costs for redaction and privacy issues, but conceded after public outcry and pushback from the city council.

    The new Bowser plan would allow members of the public to obtain lightly redacted copies of video captured on city sidewalks and during traffic stops.

    Faces of minors would be blurred and personal medical information redacted from video captured on city sidewalks and streets, while footage from traffic stops would also have audio removed.

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