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Statewide protocol is needed when releasing body cam footage 

Several Ada County Democrats have released a joint statement stressing the need for a consistent, statewide protocol when releasing body cam footage. The lawmakers — many of whom are a part of the Legislature’s Judiciary and Rules committees, as well as the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission — said policy must be created at the state level to prevent mistrust in the process or confusion for the public.

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“Body cams can dramatically improve accountability for police officers and those they encounter — and that’s as it should be. In police shooting cases, body cam footage can absolve an officer, help convict a criminal or establish an officer’s breach of duty. There is an important public interest in the footage because it can help the public understand the conduct of public servants and elected officials, and the nature of crime and public safety in the community. Idaho law is not clear on who is in control of releasing body cam footage to the public. We need consensus legislation not only to make this clear, but to better define the rules of the road for other body cam footage issues.

These issues include the following:

  • Assuring that no one can bar the release of body cam footage without a court order.
  • When a court is asked to barre lease, it should be required to carefully consider not only the rights and interests of those involved in the matter, but the public’s interest as well.

We once saw a Boise case in which the chief of police was on television the morning after a police shooting laying out evidence on a table in justification of the shooting. In other Boise and Idaho cases, we have seen a very tight-lipped approach to informing victims and the public of important information.

This can, depending on the circumstances, foster suspicion, fear and undue speculation. It can also needlessly undermine confidence in the integrity of public servants and elected officials.

We believe there should be a much more consistent approach about what is released to the public and when. We do not believe that any mayor, county commissioner, sheriff or police chief should have to go hat in hand to another official to get body cam footage that was created by a law enforcement agency under his or her control, nor do we believe any member of the public should be barred from obtaining such footage without a court first having to decide that a right of one involved in the matter outweighs the public interest.

It’s in everyone’s best interest to be as transparent as possible in resolving these sorts of serious situations.”

— Sen. Grant Burgoyne, District 16; Rep. John McCrostie, District 16; Rep. Colin Nash, District 16; Rep. John Gannon, District 17; Sen. Melissa Wintrow, District 19; Rep. Lauren Necochea, District 19

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