Governor Signs Landmark Bill By Assemblymember Ting Requiring Law Enforcement To Release Body Camera Footage
In a major to move to increase police transparency in California, Governor Brown today signed AB 748 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). The landmark bill requires the release of recordings from body-worn cameras within 45 days of a critical incident, which is defined as the discharge of a firearm or use-of-force that causes death or great bodily harm.
“The Governor’s signature on AB 748 signifies a strong commitment to police transparency in California. Public access to body camera footage is necessary to boost confidence and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” said Ting.
Current California law provides no clear or consistent policy regarding the release of body camera recordings. In April, the Los Angeles Police Commission adopted a policy similar to AB 748. But other departments commonly cite “pending investigation” as a reason to withhold the recordings under the Public Records Act. Such secrecy fosters mistrust after critical incidents occur. The new law does not supersede a department’s ability to set its own disclosure rules, so long as the rules comply with the general guidelines set forth in AB 748.
Footage from body-worn cameras can help shed light and provide clarity when there is confusion in the community after tragic events. The footage can even help clear law enforcement of any perceived wrongdoing. If releasing body camera recordings interferes with an investigation, AB 748 also allows for 30-day delays.
“AB 748 is a groundbreaking measure that will establish a statewide standard to ensure law enforcement agencies release police recordings,” said Kevin Baker, Legislative Director for the ACLU of California. “Police recordings can be a valuable tool for civilian oversight at a time of great concern with police violence. Increasing transparency in this area of policing is critical to protect public safety and repair police-community relations.”
AB 748 will take effect July 1, 2019.
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