Committee approves police body cameras bill

A draft bill that would establish statewide rules for how police use body cameras and handle requests for access to videos has been approved by a Legislative Study Committee that’s been working on the topic since this summer.

The committee voted 9-1 in support of the draft legislation. WISN-TV News Director Ben Hart and attorney James Friedman represented broadcasters and the media on the committee. Both voted in favor of the bill. The study committee included lawmakers who supported two different body camera bills during the last session. Neither were signed into law.

The new committee-approved bill can be read here.

The bill, in part, maintains the Wisconsin’s current standard of public records being assumed accessible to the public, unless a records custodian rules against openness using the balancing test. The bill uses the balancing test to determine if video should be released, and asks records custodians to take into consideration the expectation privacy for anyone who appears in the video and the treatment of victims and minors. The bill also directs records custodians to use redaction where necessary to allow for a video to be released.

The bill also sets standards for record retention and mandates training for police departments that adopt the use of police body cameras.

The committee’s bill is expected to be introduced during the next legislative session.

Legislation on body cameras passed in the Assembly but was not brought up for a vote in the Senate before the end of the last session. The study committee included lawmakers who supported two different body camera bills in the last session.