Police body camera bill goes to Senate Judiciary Committee

Wisconsin Senate Bill 50, which would give the public access to the majority of police body camera footage, went before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

police body camera
A police body camera is shown in this Wisconsin State Journal file photo.

The bill would require police to keep body camera footage for at least four months and longer in many cases. Some footage could be withheld from public access if it showed minors, victims of sensitive or violent crimes, and people in places where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as their homes.

The bill was the result of the work of a Legislative Study Committee that included representation from law enforcement and the media, among others. James Friedman, a member of the WNA Board of Directors and an attorney with Godfrey & Kahn, represented the WNA.

“If SB-50 becomes law as currently written, law enforcement agencies will have new rules to help them navigate the use of this new technology,” Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council member Kyle Geissler wrote in May’s “Your Right to Know” column. “Victims and minors would know that their privacy has protections. The public and the media would continue to have access to police body camera recordings, and they would have the same remedies for appealing a record custodian’s decision as they have today.”

If the bill passes, police would not be required to use body cameras, but any footage captured by them would be available under Wisconsin’s public records law. The bill — a significant contrast to one that failed last session and would have sealed such footage — is receiving strong support from open records advocates.

Bill Lueders, president of WisFOIC, told the Associated Press the bill was “dramatically better” than its predecessor.

» Read the bill