D.C. mayor plans to make police body camera footage public

Mayor Muriel Bowser has changed her stance on the disclosure of footage from police-worn body cameras. Jamie Finkelstein | Hatchet Photographer
Mayor Muriel Bowser has changed her stance on the disclosure of footage from police-worn body cameras. Hatchet File Photo.

In a sharp change from her original stance against releasing footage from police body cameras, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed a new plan that would release more footage from D.C. officers than any other U.S. city, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Bowser’s plan would allow private citizens to have access to thousands of police interactions with citizens recorded outdoors in public spaces, but the plan would limit access to recordings from indoor spaces and private areas to courtrooms if necessary, The Post reported. For the past year, the footage from the body cameras was not available to the public. When D.C. proposed adding more than 2,000 body cameras for officers in the program, Bowser suggested that the footage not fall under public record laws.

She said she changed her mind on the new plan because of increased shootings by police officers nationally in the past year.

“Earlier this year, I proposed putting D.C. at the razor’s edge of body worn camera implementation — and despite numerous hurdles that’s exactly what we are poised to do,” Bowser told The Post. “Nationally, we have all seen too many instances where video footage proved to be invaluable. That’s why we are committed to providing every patrol officer with a camera.”

Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who is also the chair of the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee, said he urged Bowser to change her original stance on restricting disclosure of body camera footage and wanted the approval of new cameras worn by officers to come along with a disclosure policy for the footage.

“We are closer to an agreement for a viable policy for body cameras,” McDuffie said to The Washington Post.

The footage would possibly be available to the public at police stations for a 90-day period but could include redactions, or pieces of footage that would not be permitted to be seen by the public, according from a memo from Bowser’s deputy mayor for public safety, Kevin Donahue, that was obtained by The Washington Post.

Footage recorded inside homes and private buildings and interactions involving sexual assault or domestic violence would also be exempt from the footage disclosure. The memo also included restrictions on information that could release the identities of private citizens in the recordings and and would allow police to blur the faces of minors in the footage.

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