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There's no need for a delay in releasing police body cam footage

Village News Editorial

State legislation is working towards public transparency, but it's not quite there yet. It seems to follow the old adage "One step forward, two steps back" in terms of how individuals are given pertinent information about law enforcement laws.

Around the country, body cameras on police officers have been implemented. This is meant to provide transparency in how the public is dealt with on a regular basis, and footage can be used in court as evidence against a suspect or as a way to exonerate a police officer from blame. However, many police unions are working around the clock to prevent the public from seeing that footage.

Assembly Bill 2533, authored by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, is an example of how the public would be barred from seeing footage from body cams. This bill is set for its first policy committee hearing in the second house on June 21 by the Senate Public Safety Committee.

AB 2533 seems innocent enough − the bill would allow for three days minimum before a public agency would have to release audio or video of an officer online. However, what does the police officer need three days' notice for?

During that time, an officer can rush to court and ask for an injunction, which would prevent the agency from releasing any footage. As stated in the Sacramento Bee, this could tie up recordings for months, even years, causing court delays.

With that, out would go any trust in law enforcement.

This is also not new; motions for injunctions such as these have increase in the past decade, and is a variation of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) actions. These injunctions claim that police will be defamed, or will be threatened with protracted litigation. That's enough to stop the court from releasing footage.

This no longer has anything to do with protecting the public, or even protecting police officers if information about them is disclosed; it is about police officer unions not wanting the public to see what happens on video footage. This futile attempt at blocking footage just builds a wall between law enforcement and the public, who post their own cell phone footage and social media posts about incidents as they occur

As law abiding citizens, we are taught to trust in our law enforcement. We are taught to feel secure that someone is out there, watching for our safety. Now let's take care of our police officers by holding them accountable. It's the next step towards integrity in law enforcement.

Though this is not a bill that seemingly impacts our community, as a community newspaper it is our duty to inform our readership of important legislation. As a community newspaper affiliated with the California Newspaper Publishers Association, we work to serve Fallbrook by insuring public access to information that would otherwise be unavailable, in addition to the local activities that impact us daily.


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