Police lapel camera privacy procedures questioned

Updated: 07/28/2014 6:38 PM | Created: 07/28/2014 5:55 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The Albuquerque Police Department requires officers to record every interaction with the public on their lapel cameras.

That video, with a few exceptions, then becomes available to the public through Inspection of Public Records Act regulations.

The Department of Justice says it’s a great policy that needs to be enforced more, but some people say it’s also time to look at what it means for people who call police for help.

Advocates say body cameras make both officers and civilians accountable for their actions, and could prevent excessive use of force.

Executive Director of the Center for Law, Policy and Public Safety Edmund Perea says he agrees, but says not all video should be stored forever or publicly released.

“It's very much striking a balance between transparency and privacy,” Perea said.

He worries for people who might want to talk to an officer about a crime anonymously because they fear retaliation, but for whom a camera makes that nearly impossible.

Perea, also an attorney, worries for victims of crimes; an investigation after an assault or burglary would likely mean recording of their home.

“That video of the person's house is now part of the public record, every room, every nook, every cranny,” Perea said. “They've had an invasion of privacy once by a burglary and now that may be some sort of public record.”

Since lapel recordings are public record, the majority of those videos could be pulled and made public with a few limitations.

“The information however should be strongly controlled so it doesn't get into the wrong hands,” Perea said. “One thing you don't want is for any video to become politicized in the sense that someone might use the video against someone else.”

Several civil liberties groups in other states have come out against lapel cameras altogether, saying they violate privacy rights for both officers and citizens.

But the ACLU of New Mexico supports their use; in fact, they want a court-monitored law requiring them. They don’t support video recordings being misused in any way.

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