US DOJ Preparing Toolkit About Body Cameras

8 April 2015

The Justice Department hopes to produce by late May a “toolkit” to help jurisdictions make decisions about adopting the use of body cameras, according to a DOJ spokesperson and a consultation on the project.

President Obama’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing earlier this year issued a report that includes pro-transparency recommendations, and proposed creation of “best practices” for states on topics including the disclosure of video taken from cameras worn by police officers. (See previous report.)

The planned toolkit will not prescribe polices, but instead will be “a warehouse of information,” according to Michael D. White, a Arizona State University criminology professor and one of the project’s authors.

The toolkit will address disclosure policy, but will not suggest policies. Rather it will recommend how to learn about the relevant policies, such as state freedom of information laws.

Legislatures in many states are currently reassessing their FOI laws with the disclosure of body cameras in mind. (See previous report.) A related issue affecting disclosure, but not usually dictated by state FOI laws, is how long to retain the video footage from body cameras. The report also will address the costs of retention and redaction.

The use of law enforcement body-worn cameras was examined at the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) two-day Body-Worn Camera Expert Panel on February 26 and 27 in Washington, DC. BJA is in charge of producing the toolkit.

White was the author of Justice-sponsored report in 2014, “Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras Assessing the Evidence.”

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