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District Council passes body camera law

Metro Brief

On January 19, 2016

At the end of December, Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie (D – Ward 5), chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary, issued a statement regarding signing of Bill 21-0351, the Body-Worn Camera Program Amendment Act of 2015. His statement is as follows:

“Today marks a huge victory for transparency and accountability in government. The Committee on Judiciary worked on this issue for nine months and relied extensively on stakeholder and community engagement in an effort to roll out one of the largest body-worn camera programs in the country.

“As a result, the final bill represents a balanced approach that protects residents’ privacy without sacrificing transparency and accountability. The District is at the forefront of the nation in establishing a body-worn camera program that prioritizes public access to footage, which will improve police-community relations.

“I do, however, remain deeply concerned about the amendment that was passed on final reading of the bill which allows an officer to review footage before they write their initial reports. I am concerned that officers may only describe what is in the video, rather than provide their complete and unfiltered memory of events.

“The Council included a provision in the legislation that requires bi-annual reporting, which will allow for close review of the program’s implementation. I am pleased that the District will be among the leading jurisdictions with a robust body-worn camera program and believe that residents and visitors as well as officers will benefit greatly from this 21st century policing tool.”

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