More police departments are utilizing body cameras for their officers to ensure adherence to proper policy and procedures, to provide accountability in the case of police misconduct, and to defend their officers against meritless claims. However, privacy advocates have argued that the images captured by the cameras that serve little to no public value should not be retained for more than a few days, let alone years, while images that are valuable to police accountability should be made publicly available. Much like automated license plate readers, Minnesota lacks a comprehensive guideline on how long law enforcement should be allowed to retain body camera footage and how the data should be classified. Legislation introduced this year would lay out guidelines by first classifying all body camera footage as “private non-public,” meaning only the subject of the video would have access to it unless an incident involves the use of a weapon, or infliction of substantial bodily harm, in a public place. The bill also mandates that non-criminal investigation footage which has not been flagged by law enforcement is to be maintained for 90 days and then destroyed within one year unless law enforcement retains the data longer for exculpatory purposes. The American Civil Liberties Union and several newspapers have argued that classifying all footage as private may have an adverse impact on police accountability, while law enforcement agencies would like to see the data retained longer in order to prevent frivolous complaints against officers.
STATUS: The bill is on the Senate Floor. (S.F. 498)
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