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Missouri bill proposes banning availability of police captured footage

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Zach McAuliffe is a University of Dayton alumni with degrees in journalism and English. He wants to present people with all the facts they need to make informed decisions on the world around them. He also enjoys Shakespeare and long walks on the beach with his puppy Lily.

A bill has been proposed by Missouri lawmakers which would exempt any footage recorded on a police operated camera from being viewed by the public.

Senate Bill No. 331 reads, “Any recording captured by a camera, which is capable of recording video or audio…shall not be a public record… [and] shall not be disclosed by a law enforcement agency except upon order of a court in the course of a criminal  investigation or prosecution or civil litigation.” Footage captured on any police camera attached to a piece of police equipment, car, aircraft, or police person, would therefore be protected by this bill.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Doug Libla (R), and Missouri’s attorney general, Chris Koster (D), has voiced his support of barring the public from access to these videos.

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Koster said, according to St. Louis Today, the footage would be considered closed records and therefore unavailable under Missouri’s Sunshine Law. The footage would be available, however, to people investigating an incident resulting in a civil lawsuit, or by a court order to others.

Missouri Rep. Galen Higdon has called for similar legislature, saying, according to the River Front Times, “Capturing a crime on video, whether it was perpetrated by an officer or perpetrated by a perp, the chain of evidence needs to be protected.” Higdon also said if the footage is available to the public before a trial, the jury pool could potentially be tainted and this may slow the trial down.

Sarah Rossi, the director of advocacy and policy for the Missouri’s American Civil Liberties Union, has said the proposed legislature is just an “end run around Missouri’s Sunshine Law.” Current Sunshine Laws, said Rossi, already allow law enforcement officers to restrict the public from viewing evidence which is involved in active police investigations.

Libla’s bill also proposes police departments shall not be required by the state to provide their officers with body cameras, and no department shall require an officer to wear a body camera.

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