FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — A bill that would specify when footage from body cameras worn by law enforcement may be accessed and used by the public received approval Tuesday in the state House.
House Bill 373 sponsor Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said the growing popularity of body cameras among law enforcement agencies has made the legislation necessary since footage from those cameras is not currently addressed in the Kentucky Open Records Act. That is the state law that provides legal access to public records.
“What the bill does is it says when a department decides to wear body-worn cameras that we’re going to create a construct around how that video is to be used and when it can be released because our current Open Records law does not address it and leads to a lot of confusion,” said Benvenuti.
HB 373 would allow public agencies to restrict access to footage from body cameras worn by law enforcement in specific cases, said Benvenuti, including but not limited to cases where a recording shows the interior of specific places (including private homes, medical facilities, or jails), a deceased person’s body, evidence of sexual assault, nude bodies, a child under the age of 18, or the inside of a women’s shelter.
Restricted access would be lifted, he said, when a recording depicts use of force by a law enforcement officer, shows someone being arrested, involves a formal complaint against law enforcement, or when a recording is requested by a criminal defendant or his or her attorney.
Benvenuti said the scene of a motor vehicle fatality is an example of an incident that may be recorded by body camera but which law enforcement likely does not want to be made public.
“That’s obviously not footage we would want put out on YouTube or the internet,” he told the House.
Benvenuti emphasized that HB 373 would in no way require law enforcement agencies to buy or use body cameras, adding “that is up to individual departments and their communities to decide whether or not they have the resources and the availability and the training to use those body cameras. So this bill has nothing to do with that.”
HB 373 passed the House by a vote of 94-2. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Media release from the Legislative Research Commission.