Oklahoma Legislature Weighs Law Enforcement Body Cam Bill

Thursday, April 23rd 2015, 6:50 pm
By: Emory Bryan

State lawmakers might create restrictions on what video shot with body cameras is made public.

It could create new delays or outright exemptions to video ever being released in some cases.

It's still being changed in the legislature, but at one point the way it was written would have delayed and possibly prevented release of the data in the reserve-deputy shooting of Eric Harris or the recent officer-involved shooting in Sand Springs.

The rapid adoption of body cams has created new questions about how police handle the video they gather.

In several recent cases, it has been the clearest picture of what's happened -- by either answering questions or creating new ones.

Not surprisingly, attorneys using the Eric Harris video fully support absolute openness with law enforcement video

They believe they would not know exactly what happened without it.

"Video is the great equalizer in conveying in what happened - video doesn't lie,” civil rights attorney Bob Blakemore said.

The state legislature might roll back some of that openness this session, putting restrictions on what's now an almost completely public record no matter what the camera sees.

“And it sees things the public doesn't want to see, like victims of domestic violence, or confidential informants, with their lives in danger if their identity is revealed, so that's what you've got to think about with body cameras,” Oklahoma state senator David Holt (R-OKC) said.

In Sand Springs, newly released video showed exactly the dangers officers faced with an armed suspect.

It later shows the man dying - but also rolls as the same officer who shot him tries to save him.

“Above all, we support video,” Sand Springs Deputy Chief Mike Carter said. “In this last instance we had, we saw how valuable it was.

Carter fully supports the cameras, but he also wants some restrictions on what happens to the video.

"When it's people using those videos either for their pleasure or to embarrasses someone needlessly, I have an issue with that," Carter said.

The House and Senate approved different versions of it, so they're working out a compromise now.