Police Body-Worn Cameras and Victim Privacy

Jan 14th, 2022

By Senator Charles Sydnor III, District 44, Baltimore County

Privacy for sexual assault survivors is important.  Last session I introduced SB 690 to address a vitally important topic of balancing the transparency of police body camera footage with the rights of individuals whose images are captured on those same cameras; these individuals include sexual assault survivors. This bill addressed circumstances under which a custodian of records would be required to deny or allow inspection of recordings from body-worn cameras worn by our police officers. While the bill successfully passed the Senate last session, it was unable to pass within the House; so I have reintroduced it this session as Senate Bill 31.

While it is extremely important that the public know what officers are doing as they serve the community, there are instances when the release of some images caught on body camera footage are outweighed by the possible intrusion into an individual’s difficult circumstances. The bill intends to protect the privacy of victims of sensitive crimes by prohibiting the release of videos depicting victims of sexual crimes, domestic violence, or child or vulnerable adult abuse. When certain enumerated crimes, including sexual assault, occur to individuals, it is arguably not in the public’s interest to see those videos.

While Senate Bill 31 will provide access and the ability of a victim to obtain a copy of the video, the bill will also ensure that alleged perpetrators in the video records are unable to copy video footage, ensuring videos cannot be used for victim humiliation nor shaming.  The hope is that this empowers sexual assault survivors and other victimized individuals to control those images captured by the body-worn camera.

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