Once again, Harrisburg legislators are pushing a bill that would damage the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve.
On Friday, the ACLU detailed how Senate Bill 560 would prevent access to police body-worn camera footage:
It will insure that body camera video falls outside the state’s Right To Know Law, for one thing — meaning that the rules allowing civilians to obtain policies, meeting minutes, and even internal emails sent to and from government employees, will not apply to video produced by police.
Just so we’re clear: This is footage of activity in public where we are entitled to be, taken by law enforcement officers who we pay to protect us, while they're on duty. It defies reason that footage from these cameras, which have been heralded as a major development in police transparency, should suddenly be hidden from the public.
The very people who hold special powers over the public, and who have the highest responsibility to respect our rights and ensure public safety, would suddenly be shielded from the view of that same public at the very moments when the need for transparency is most urgent.
This latest move underscores why Philadelphia needs a truly progressive prosecutor — one who will stand up to the kind of regressive policies that come out of Republican-controlled state governments, along with those that come out of a US Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions.
I stand with the ACLU and other criminal justice reformers in opposing this move towards less openness. In the post-Ferguson era — and after the public outcry in our own city after the police shooting of Brandon Tate-Brown — the double standard created by this wrongheaded bill would only erode public confidence in our criminal justice system. Eroding that confidence would also make the jobs of hardworking officers of goodwill more difficult and more dangerous.
As Philadelphia’s District Attorney, I will exercise my discretion as the law permits to release such videos as needed so that we, the public, can see what we have the right to see.