ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - It can be used to help catch criminals and hold police officers accountable but Missouri's attorney general wants to restrict people’s right to see police camera footage.
Among a series of recommendations released by Attorney General Chris Koster Friday, is a recommendation to state lawmakers to change Missouri law to consider body camera videos as closed records under the state’s Sunshine Law. It’s a controversial decision weighing the public’s right to transparency against the public’s right to privacy.
“Adoption of this technology must not lead to a new era of voyeurism and entertainment television at the expense of Missourian’s privacy,” the document reads.
In the wake of Ferguson, more and more departments in our area began implementing body cameras but several have hesitated because of concerns over privacy.
"We have issue with police officers showing up at a person's home in response to a call and all of a sudden you've got footage of someone’s home and whether that would be appropriately, is that private or something public?” questioned St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.
Those same concerns were echoed Friday by Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, calling it “a fine line.”
The Ferguson Police Department has already implemented body cameras while St. Louis County is currently trying out several models. The City of St. Louis is still in the process of creating policy.
Supporters of body cameras and more transparency say Koster’s recommendations create concern.
“If the public can’t see them once again that’s going to cause a problem, it’s going to cause a huge problem because it’s going to continue that lack of transparency, the lack of seeing what’s going on,” explained Rasheen Aldrige, who sits on the Ferguson Commission.
Aldrige said there may be a way to compromise, perhaps by giving access of the video to a body similar to a civilian review board.
“If it’s not going to go out to the whole public there does need to be somebody created where the community can see and be part of the system and see the transparency,” he said.
Koster’s recommendations are just that, recommendations. The state legislature is the only entity that could make changes to the law. A bill has been proposed in the state House of Representatives making the footage inaccessible to the public.
The recommendation on body cameras was just one in the list of representative policing.
Among the other recommendations, Koster proposes: