Law Enforcement Body Camera Bill Paused

Jeff Hunt of PARR BROWN testifies on behalf of Utah Media Coalition on HB300
Jeff Hunt of Parr Brown testifies on behalf of Utah Media Coalition on HB300 the body camera bill.

The shot clock ran out during the House Committee on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice hearing on HB 300 – Body Worn Cameras for Law Enforcement Officers.

Representative Dan McCay (Republican – Riverton), flanked by media coalition attorney Jeff Hunt tried to move the bill through the process and on to the House floor, but found insufficient time in committee before the House was called to chamber, given discussion and amendment motions.

Presenting to a standing-room-only crowd, the two-year effort to codify and systematize Utah’s use of body cameras by law enforcement personnel has been previously thought of as a conglomeration of other states’ policies. Last year, McCay attempted the effort and had to redo substantial portions of HB 386 from 2015  that has now become McCay’s 2016 effort.

Hunt told the committee about the exceptions and exemptions to be allowed with local police policies and described the appropriate level of public access to the footage involved.

Marina Lowe of ACLU Utah described individual privacy concerns for those involved with police actions and activities who may end up in real police videos. Ultimately she told the committee that the ACLU supports McCay’s bill.

In addition to the legal minds involved, Bountiful’s Police Chief Tom Ross offered his professional concerns about the vulnerability that his officers may encounter with a camera requirement. Ross cited activating the technology on a call as “one more responsibility” and potential distraction in life-or-death situations. At this point in the discussion, the committee included the so-called “fatal funnel,” where officers face the most risk during a domestic dispute call. The term describes the front-door porch or entryway that is statistically the most dangerous for police while they are gathering information and assessing public safety at the scene as well as their own.

After committee efforts  to make the bill more palatable with minor amendments that McCay was not entirely opposed to, Representative Paul Ray (Republican – Clearfield) moved to hold the bill in the committee for further discussion and work. Ray’s motion proved unnecessary as the clock ran out due to mandatory adjournment allowing the representatives on the committee to take their desks in the House chamber for scheduled floor time.

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