My new paper, “Collateral Visibility: Police Body Cameras, Public Disclosure, and Privacy,” on body-worn camera adoption, privacy, and public access to BWC footage has been accepted by the Indiana Law Journal! The draft (which is undergoing an update) is available on SSRN (http://ssrn.com/abstract=2740377). All comments, corrections, etc. are welcome.
The abstract follows:
Law enforcement use of body-worn cameras has recently become a subject of significant public and scholarly debate. This article presents the findings from an empirical examination of the legal and social implications of body-worn camera adoption by two police departments in Washington State. In particular, this study focuses on the public disclosure of body-worn camera footage under Washington State’s Public Records Act (PRA), provides an analysis of state privacy and access to information law, and presents empirical findings related to officer attitudes towards—and perceptions of—the impact of these laws on their work, their own personal privacy, and the privacy of the citizens they serve. The law in Washington State requires law enforcement agencies to disclose substantial amounts of footage, and options for withholding footage based on privacy grounds are very limited under the PRA and recent Washington State Supreme Court case law. Additionally, broad public records requests for body-worn camera footage have posed significant problems for civilian privacy. Police officers report strong concerns about public disclosure of their footage, largely because of the potential for such footage to impact civilian privacy interests, and officers also report high levels of disagreement with the current requirements to disclose most footage to any member of the public. However, officers are supportive of limited access policies that would allow individuals connected to an incident to obtain footage. This article concludes by making a normative argument for restricting public access to some body-worn camera footage on privacy grounds while still preserving adequate space for robust civilian oversight and police accountability.