Broadcasters speak in support of body camera bill

The Wisconsin State Assembly Committee on State Affairs on Thursday held a public hearing on a bill (AB896) that would establish statewide rules for how police use body cameras. The Assembly bill is a companion to an identical bill in the State Senate (SB50).

WKOW-TV News Director Ed Reams and attorney James Friedman testified in favor of the bill, stating that the bill was the product of a Legislative Study Committee in which representatives of law enforcement, criminal justice, the legislature, and the media overcame their differences to formulate a bill that gives direction to law enforcement, protects the privacy of victims and witnesses, and provides access to the media and the public.

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.