Police body camera committee to discuss draft bill

MADISON – Members of a study committee on police body camera legislation are expected to discuss a draft bill related to the retention and inspection of body cam footage on Oct. 17 in Madison.

The draft, which is presented by Legislative Council staff based on the committee’s previous discussions, is a combination of two bills introduced last session — AB 351 and AB 557 — with some modifications. Additions include language requiring a law enforcement agency to post its policy online if it maintains a website. It also sets a longer retention period for encounters that include use of force.

Footage retention

Under the draft bill, all footage would have to be retained for a minimum of 120 days. In other cases, longer retention would be required.

Footage involving the following would have to be retained until disposition of the case or complaint:

  • A custodial arrest
  • The injury or death of any individual
  • A search during an authorized temporary questioning
  • An encounter that included the use of force by a law enforcement officer, except if used to dispatch an injured wild animal

Exceptions for longer retention also would include:

  • Footage also would have to be retained for longer than 120 days in the following instances:
  • A law enforcement officer or agency, a board of police and fire commissioners, a prosecutor, a defendant or a court determined footage had evidentiary value in a prosecution
  • Footage is used in a criminal, civil, or administrative hearing
  • An open records request for the footage was received

Right to inspection

The preliminary bill also incorporates language from AB 557 determining that footage is generally subject to inspection and copying under the public records law unless a specific exemption applies. Exemptions include:

  • Footage is only subject to the 120-day retention period, unless an exception applies
  • Footage includes nudity
  • Footage depicts matter that is subject to privilege under Wisconsin State Statute Chapter 905 of Wisconsin State Statutes (the privacy of a victim of a sensitive or violent crime, minor, or an individual in a location with a reasonable expectation of privacy)

Footage in these cases would still be required to be maintained and, if the public interest in disclosure outweighs that public policy, access would have to be provided. In these cases, law enforcement agencies would be required to follow notice procedures under Wisconsin State Statute Chapter 19.356 or the “Woznicki Fix” provision, before releasing the data.

» RELATED: Oct. 17 meeting agenda
» RELATED: Preliminary police body camera bill
» RELATED: Police body camera committee memo

The draft also includes provisions from AB 351 describing the legal custodian of police body camera data and clarifying that a district attorney is not prohibited from releasing footage when required to do so under laws governing the review of deaths involving law enforcement officers.

The Legislative Study Committee on the Use of Police Body Cameras is directed to review law enforcement policies regarding the use of body cameras and recommend legislation to establish uniform procedures regarding the retention and release of police body camera video. It includes Sens. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) and Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and Reps. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and John Spiros (R-Marshfield). James Friedman, WNA Foundation Board member and legal hotline attorney, also serves on the committee.

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct 17 in Room 225 Northwest of the State Capitol in Madison.