Politics & Government

Negotiated body-cams bill would let police withhold footage to protect privacy

A negotiated proposal to regulate police body cameras for the next two years would let police agencies withhold footage to protect privacy.

But unlike a previous police-backed proposal, it does not change access to other kinds of recordings, it would not make people requesting footage go through a court process, and it leaves intact current law on recording people without their consent.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs had been at odds with Allied Daily Newspapers on Rep. Drew Hansen’s House Bill 1917, sought by police agencies that said the prospect of time-consuming records requests kept them from using body cameras. The two groups are among those agreeing to the new version of the bill that Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, has put forward as a potential amendment.

(UPDATE) The bill didn’t clear a key deadline Wednesday but Hansen said it remains alive for potential consideration because it is considered to affect the budget.

Rowland Thompson, lobbyist for the group of newspapers — which includes The News Tribune and The Olympian — said the papers made concessions by agreeing to let agencies charge most requesters for the cost of redaction and to withhold records on privacy grounds.

The privacy restriction would expire in two years, over which time a task force would meet to consider long-term policy.

The restriction would apply only to records deemed to be of no legitimate public concern and whose disclosure is deemed highly offensive. The offensive category would include footage of children or of nudity or footage taken inside homes, but it’s not limited to that list.

James McMahan, lobbyist for the police group, said the restriction doesn’t exclude all video from release that it probably should, but would dramatically improve current law that lacks specific exclusions.