A new law restricting access to police videos is creating controversy in the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s Act 22 law restricts police surveillance, dash cam, and body cam videos from being released to the public under the state’s Right to Know laws.
Since its passing in September 2017, 14 out of 16 requests for police videos in Pennsylvania have been denied. While this undoubtedly pleases those in support of the law, it frustrates victims of police misconduct who rely on that video as crucial evidence.
Police body cam and dash cam videos were initiated as a result of a public outcry for police transparency following a rash of police brutality and racially motivated incidents that were recorded by civilians and posted on public social media sites. Police and law enforcement officials claimed the content of these videos did not accurately show what happened in these cases because they were taken out of context.
Police officers were equipped with dashboard and body video recorders to record events as they unfolded, therefore eliminating questions concerning justification for violence or shootings. The plan was meant to protect law enforcement officers and to satisfy the public’s right to know about details concerning public law enforcement.
Access to police videos is commonly requested by the media, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, and law firms. The dash cam and body cam videos can provide vital evidence for those charged with crimes such as drunk driving, shoplifting, traffic violations, domestic violence, and assault. Insurance companies can determine fault settlement terms based on what is recorded.
The media uses police video to supplement their news reports and to provide evidence to the public on reports of police brutality and racial profiling. Police videos can also be used to identify suspects and to seek help from the public in locating those suspected of criminal activity.
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania were made aware that passing Act 22 would create limited access to police videos. While many body cam and dash cam videos could be used to defend and justify the actions of police officers, lawmakers fear releasing the videos to the public may interfere with criminal investigations and infringe on the privacy of citizens charged but not yet convicted of a crime. The court of public opinion can seriously damage the impartiality of a jury, and potentially impact the professional and personal reputations of innocent victims.
If you have experienced an infringement on your civil rights, contact the Pennsylvania civil rights lawyers at Williams Cedar or the South Jersey civil rights lawyers at Williams Cedar. Complete our online contact form or call us at 215-557-0099 or 856-470-9777 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options. From our offices in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we represent clients in Pennsylvania, Haddonfield, Cherry Hill, South Jersey, and nationwide.