HARRISBURG, Pa. – A measure approved by the state Senate would put severe restrictions on access to video recorded by police body cams. The amendment to the state’s wiretap law was meant to overcome police concerns with recording audio and video in private homes.
But according to Andy Hoover, the legislative director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, it would make it extremely difficult for anyone, including victims of police abuse, to ever see video recorded by the police cameras.
“In effect, the public will never see, or rarely see, video that’s produced by police cameras, and that means hiding police misconduct,” he said.
The sponsor of the bill said police video is collected as evidence, so it is sensitive information and the provision is required to protect the identities of people in the recordings.
Hoover conceded that there are some legitimate privacy concerns.
“There is an argument for shielding some video,” he added. “But this bill is out of balance, and going in the total direction of hiding information from the public.”
Earlier this week, the Senate Law and Justice Committee approved a bill that would prohibit public officials from releasing the name of any police officer for 30 days who uses force.
Both provisions are advancing at a time when there is growing national concern about police killings of unarmed black people. Hoover believes the Senate’s actions send a clear, and troubling, message.
“This is the week that the state Senate told the Black Lives Matter movement what it thinks of their grievances,” he said. “The state Senate told the movement for black lives that it doesn’t care.”
Governor Tom Wolf has not taken a position on the bills. If they pass, Hoover said the ACLU will urge him to veto them.