Revised version of SB 248 by Sen. Chris Smith keeps in place overly-broad public record exemptions that undermine accountability function of police body cameras
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 1, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Today, despite the outcry from civil rights groups, Florida state Senator Chris Smith unveiled an updated version of a bill regarding police body cameras that leaves in place overly-broad public record exemptions that could keep footage shot by the cameras from ever seeing the light of day. The bill is scheduled to be heard tomorrow, April 2, by the Senate Rules Committee.
A coalition of civil rights groups released a letter last month before urging senators to reject the bill as the categories of public records exemptions in the bill that prohibit the video footage from the cameras from being released “are far too broad and can prevent disclosure of evidence of police misconduct even in the most egregious circumstances such as the alleged use of excessive or deadly force.”
Members of several groups who signed onto the bill have met with Senator Smith to discuss their concerns, but the updated draft of the bill released today keeps in place the broad exemptions.
The following statements are from civil rights groups responding to the updated SB 248:
Michelle Richardson, Public Policy Director, ACLU of Florida:
CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org, (786) 363-2737
“As we’ve told Senator Smith time and again, these cameras can only serve as an effective tool for police oversight if the footage they record is accessible by the public. The bill as written undermines the work being done in the communities across Florida that have started rolling out body cameras.”
Ahmad Abuznaid, COO, Dream Defenders:
"Communities are pleading for legitimate forms of police accountability, not increased police privilege. These cameras are a waste of money if the people can't see what’s on them."
Martha Pardo, Associate Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF:
CONTACT: email@example.com, (321) 418 - 6354
“Body cameras are a valuable tool for community policing by promoting accountability for police officers. The use of body cameras reduces use of excessive force, discriminatory stops and seizures of Latinos and other immigrant residents in Florida, and helps promote citizens’ trust in law enforcement. SB 248’s broad exemptions to the release of body camera footage undermine these protections. We urge the State Senate not to enact this bill which contradicts the value body cameras bring to law enforcement and the community.”
Beverlye Neal, Orlando Chapter Chair, National Congress of Black Women:
"The cameras are needed for protection for both the citizen and Law Enforcement, but this bill would keep them from doing the thing they are supposed to do.”
Hashim Benford, Director, Power U Center for Social Change
CONTACT: Hashim@poweru.org, (305) 576 – 7449
"The whole point of body cameras is to increase transparency and provide some measure by which community can hold police accountable. This legislation is completely counter to any notion of transparency or accountability. It will only serve to heighten the tensions between community and police departments."
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