Body cam footage to be kept private

Published 10:24 am Friday, March 25, 2016

Police Chief Bobby Bell addressed possible privacy concerns associated with police body cameras, assuring the public the footage will be kept safe and secure.

The Brookhaven Police Department will be equipped with body cameras before mid-April in a move Bell said should help build trust between the public and law enforcement.

The footage from the police cameras will be kept on hard drives at the police station for approximately 90 days, Bell said. If footage is needed by investigators or police officers for court, they will submit requests. The requests will be answered with a disc of the specific footage, not an allowance to go through the archive.

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Residents concerned about privacy should know the footage is only to be accessed after written consent within the department, Bell said. For any outer-department use, there would be written consent from the district attorney.

“It’s not going to be anything for the public to see, it’s for court purposes only,” Bell said. “The only way they’re going to release any video to an entity or somebody is with written permission from the district attorney.”

Bell said when he was coming up with the rules and regulations for the body cameras, he consulted the Privacy Act and what the American Civil Liberties Union has released on the topic. Bell said he incorporated those opinions and ideas into the rules.

Any time the officer is responding to a call and encountering someone, the camera will be on. Bell said officers will notify people of the camera when interacting with the public.

Bell addressed the possibility of an event where officers come upon something that a subject would find embarrassing or that is inappropriate, and not want on video. Bell said they’re not going to embarrass anyone and the officers don’t care to see anything of that nature, but will focus on neutralizing the situation and ensuring everything and everyone is decent before moving forward.

“Not only (when officers are at someone’s house responding to a call), but on the streets we’ll let you know that we have cameras on,” Bell said. “And I think this is going to keep us with a lower amount of complaints, and it’s going to make the officers do the right thing and the citizens do the right thing.”

Bell said the cameras will help solve any problems that may occur between law enforcement and the public.

“It’s not to hurt the citizens, it should help with the confidence of knowing we’ll be held accountable,” Bell said. “I wish we could’ve gone to body cameras years ago. They have really helped officers and helped citizens in certain situations.”