Missouri bill would define open records access for police cameras

Jan 30, 2016

A Kansas City-area Republican is sponsoring a bill that would set limits on when police camera footage is public record in Missouri.

The bill would block access to body camera recordings shot in homes, hospitals and schools unless the investigation is closed and someone in the video requests it.

“My biggest concern was footage that’s captured on a body camera when an officer is called to a situation inside someone’s home. That’s a privacy issue that’s protected by the Fourth Amendment,” said Rep. Ken Wilson, the bill’s sponsor. “Anything that’s out in the public, you have no expectation of privacy there, I mean everybody’s got a video camera on a phone anymore. I don’t really care about that. But in a home, I just think we have to be careful about something that’s in a home.”

Depending on age and circumstance, a family member, guardian or lawyer may also be able to obtain the footage. But they won’t be able to disclose its contents or post the video online without giving other civilians present in the footage time to file a court order to stop the disclosure.

Wilson, who is a retired police chief from Smithville, thinks some Missouri police departments are holding off on adopting body cameras out of concern.

“Wouldn’t it be neat if we had something that narrowed this down, that kind of locked in this release of records that give confidence to other departments and pretty soon you’ve got video cameras everywhere on police departments? I think that would be a good thing,” Wilson said.

“I think if you have video cameras on these men and women that are working the streets today you’re going to see the heroes that they are on any given hour of any given day,” he added.

Credit Jason Rojas | Flickr

The bill also would also allow police to charge the person who submits the request for time spent determining whether or not the footage is an open record.

“Right now everybody’s concerned whether rightly or not about how much time’s going to be required managing these records and how many requests are going to come in,” Wilson said.

The bill has had a second reading in the Missouri House of Representatives, but it is not yet assigned to a committee.

Wilson said he’s hopeful it will be assigned to a committee soon.

“I don’t really see any reason why it won’t,” he said. “I think this is an issue that a lot of people have their eyes on.”

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.