State Assembly Passes Bill That Would Restrict Access to Police Body Videos

Nov 9, 2017

The state Assembly passed a bill Thursday that would restrict public access to police body camera footage. Those videos often are used in trial to help determine guilt or innocence.

In some cases, they’ve been released to the public when an officer is accused of wrongdoing – including in the trial for former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown. He was acquitted earlier this year in the shooting death of Sylville Smith in the Sherman Park neighborhood.

The bill would keep most police body camera footage from the public. Republican Rep. Jesse Kremer is the author of the measure. He says it’s designed to protect peoples’ privacy.

“There is no reason that a sexual assault victim, a woman raped and left for dead in an alley completely naked should be expected to relive the worst day of her life in the public eye, as that law enforcement call for service video is replayed for the entire courtroom. Yes, the judge, jury, prosecution and defense must have access, but there’s no reason that this video should make it to the media or to a youtube channel,” Kremer says.

Democrats blasted the measure, including Rep. JoCasta Zamarrippa of Milwaukee. She called the bill, troubling.

“Public access to body camera footage is essential to achieving what the use of body cameras is meant to do – creating public trust and improving relations between our law enforcement and the communities they’re sworn to protect. Having a public record of public interactions with the police improves all of our lives,” Zamarrippa says.

The bill now goes to the Senate, but it’s not expected to take it up until January. Thursday was the last session day of the year for the legislature.