Committee finishes work on police body camera bill

James Friedman and Ben Hart

A Legislative Study Committee has completed work on a bill that would regulate the use of police body cameras in Wisconsin.

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.

WISN-TV News Director Ben Hart and attorney James Friedman represented broadcasters and the media on the committee.

The bill that failed in the last session would have made footage from police body cameras confidential to the public unless it contained injuries, deaths, arrests, or searches. Victims and witnesses would also need to give law enforcement permission to release footage if the videos violated their privacy.

The committee on Tuesday approved final edits to the legislation it’s proposing. A final draft has not yet been released. The bill as it read ahead of Tuesday’s meeting can be found 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. 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.