Due to some last minute scrambling by assembly members, a controversial
bill requiring the use of body cameras by California police officers advanced
in the state legislature. On April 30, Assembly Bill 66 was approved by
the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee and will now move
on for further consideration.
The Sacramento Bee, assembly members had to race to make amendments to the bill to secure
the votes it needed to advance. The key detail in the bill's provisions
addressed exactly when officers would be allowed watch footage following
a lethal use of force. The bill had recently been changed to allow local
departments to decide when an officer involved in a deadly incident could
review body camera footage. However, when it appeared as if the bill would
still not get the votes it needed, a further change to allow most officers
to review the footage before writing an incident report was also applied.
Law enforcement agencies have supported the use of body cameras in California—and
some departments, like Oakland, already use them—but have been extremely
critical of Assembly Bill 66, which they consider "constraining"
and "heavy-handed." The amended bill only moved forward with
one deciding vote as many assembly members abstained from the vote altogether.
A tool to rebuild trust?
Many experts and legislators in California and nationwide believe that
police body cameras could be a critical tool in evaluating violent incidents
and in holding officers responsible for any misconduct. Proponents of
AB 66 believe that the new bill amendment will continue to allow police
to doctor incident reports in their favor.
Law enforcement representatives, however, believe that the ability to review
footage before writing an official report could be valuable tool for officers.
"This is when things get very blurry. Things happen very quickly,”
said law enforcement lobbyist Tim Yaryan about the bill controversy. “This
is exactly and precisely when officers need to have that review.”
What is agreed upon is that, in light so many high-profile and controversial
police shooting incidents all over the country, there needs to be a significant
changes to law enforcement policy to address public concern. "We
know that we’re in a crisis in this state,” said Assemblywoman
Shirley Weber, who was instrumental in getting the bill through its difficult
vote. "As legislators, we must move forward to make sure we respond
to this issue.”
If you have been charged with a crime, then it is highly recommended that
you speak with a legal representative as soon as possible. At
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