Police body camera guidelines raise privacy concerns | St. Louis Public Radio

Police body camera guidelines raise privacy concerns

Jan 22, 2016

Updated 4:46 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, with a response from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

St. Louis residents don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their own homes under a body camera pilot program of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

An illustration of a body-worn video camera or "body cam" commonly used by police forces.
Credit Wikimedia Commons | throwawaysixtynine

That’s according to the program’s guidelines made public through a recent Sunshine Law request. Since early last month, 30 city police sergeants have been wearing cameras while on patrol for a 90-day trial run.

 

“We don’t want to see those cameras out on the streets without having adequate policies in place,” said John Chasnoff, an organizer with the group Drone Free St. Louis that requested the guidelines.

He added the public needs to be more involved in the process as the guidelines are refined. “We need to make sure that people’s privacy is protected, that there are policies dictating when the cameras are on and when they’re off.”

 

Drone Free St. Louis is among a coalition of social justice groups that’s calling for St. Louis’ aldermanic Public Safety Committee to hold a hearing to address policies of the pilot program.

15th Ward Alderman Megan Ellyia Green has also called for more public disclosure. She says she wants to make sure any policies adopted are codified by the city so they can’t be changed by the next police chief.

“So many police departments across the country are going to body cameras and ... they often have very different policies than other cities. So, I don’t think consensus has emerged yet on what really good policies are around body cameras,” Green said.

 

The city's police department released a statement late Friday. It reads, in part:

 

"The department is currently participating in a pilot program to determine what cameras will best serve our purpose. We also know there are important moral and legal issues to be considered, like how to weigh the privacy concerns of citizens beside the goals of public safety. Once the pilot program is complete, the department plans on requesting input from the public to help us come up with the best possible practices to structure our body camera program."