Public Could Have Less Access to Police Camera Footage - KOAM TV 7

Public Could Have Less Access to Police Camera Footage


It's been 2 years since the incident in Ferguson, Missouri put police practices into question. Now, Missouri legislators have passed a measure that would limit public access to police body and dash-cam video until an investigation is finished.

With the simple flip of a lens, 15 Joplin police officers currently record every stop they make. But who is able to see that video?

“Under the sunshine Law, we keep the video as a closed record until the case is adjudicated, we consider a criminal investigation active until its fully adjudicated and so as such, it’s a closed record,” says Captain Bob Higginbotham with the Joplin Police Department.

If passed, the new law would extend that to keep video taken in nonpublic locations sealed without a court order. But the JPD doesn't want to hide what's captured. Higginbotham understands the need to limit access to videos taken in a place where privacy is assumed.

“Our interest in body cameras is that we have the ability to demonstrate to the public what we do when it’s permissible for us to show that video. And it’s a way to protect the officers as well to provide for affective prosecution,” says Higginbotham.

A local defense attorney says allowing the public to see certain videos could potentially taint a jury pool for a trial but that this legislation goes beyond what is necessary.

“The problem that you see so often is that there’s no time frame for making a determination as to whether or not the subject matter of the video is going to result in a criminal prosecution,” says William Fleischaker.

The public can see both sides.

“My brother was killed 8 years ago and I’m a firm believer on being able to see evidence. I want to see everything that happened, why it happened, where it happened, and I just believe that we should be able to see that,” says Joplin resident Meri Toliver.

“If I were just to get pulled over and get a ticket and then somebody, some random Joe off the street, could go watch me getting a ticket, I think that’s a little intruding,” says Webb City resident Hannah Brown.

The measure now goes to Governor Jay Nixon. He has not yet said whether he'll sign it.

The JPD plans on outfitting every officer with a body camera soon.

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