Minn. House passes police body camera bill

In the aftermath of police shootings like Jamar Clark, body cameras have been touted to improve accountability and transparency in police interactions with the public, but some worry a body camera bill debated in the Minnesota House of Representatives is more weighted towards police than the people they serve.

“This bill attempts to balance the privacy rights of the public to access information,” Rep. Tony Cornish said. He introduced the bill, which would be one of the most restrictive body camera laws in the country for a vote on the House floor, where the bill was debated for over three hours on Monday night.

It would only allow the public to see body cam footage if it was taken in a public place and police use of force resulted in someone receiving "substantial bodily harm.” The bill states police would also be able to redact parts of the video that offends "common sensibilities.” Some people, like data privacy expert Rich Neumeister say its police who would determine what "substantial bodily harm" and "common sensibilities" mean. Neumeister said provisions like allowing officers to review body camera video before writing their official reports is unfair because the people they encounter aren't allowed to do the same.

“It’s of the people, for the people, by the people; it’s really a bill of the police, for the police, by the police,” he said.

Lawmakers decided while not perfect, some body camera guidelines are better than none, and the House version passed. The Senate passed a similar bill, so the House version will go to conference committee to iron out the differences while critics, including the NAACP and ACLU are asking Gov. Dayton to veto it.