4 March 2016

Police Body-Worn Cameras: Where Your State Stands

By: Serena Lei

When and where can body-worn cameras be used?

Nine states have passed legislation specifying when and where cameras can be used, while similar bills are pending in 16 states.

In Pennsylvania, the state’s wiretap law prevents police from recording inside a person’s home without permission. Pennsylvania is one of 37 states as of January 1 that restricts recordings where privacy is expected, but state legislators are seeking to amend that law for police officers. Some law enforcement officials are concerned that officers will be distracted if they have to turn the camera on and off during a chase or accidentally violate the law in the rush to respond.

Pittsburgh Police Lieutenant Ed Trapp, project manager of the department’s body-worn camera program, said that he sees the camera as a reporting tool—one that is even more critical in a person’s home to ensure accountability and transparency for the resident and the police officer.

“Going into a house is one of the most intrusive things government does,” Trapp said. “Why would that be the one time you’d want to turn the cameras off?”

Until the state law is changed, Pittsburgh police officers have been instructed to shut off their cameras as soon as they are dispatched to a private residence.

In Tennessee, lawmakers are considering bills that would require police to wear body-worn cameras “at all times when the officer is on duty” and record footage of “all the officer’s activities.” Other states’ laws are less prescriptive, so it’s up to department policies to clarify the issue.


Learn more at: http://apps.urban.org/features/body-camera/





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