Caught on Camera: The FOI Fallout from Police Cameras

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 | justin@nefirstamendment.org

As police departments around the country increasingly use body cameras, many questions arise about access to these video records under freedom of information laws and how journalists can use the videos ethically.

On April 8, the New England First Amendment Coalition will conduct a panel discussion of issues related to the use of body cameras at the Making CONNections journalism conference at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Conn. Titled “Caught on Camera: The FOI Fallout from Police Cameras,” the panel will begin at 3:15 p.m. at the Adanti Student Center. For registration information, visit the conference website. Discussion materials can be found here.

Jim Smith, a NEFAC board member and president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, will moderate the panel. Speakers will include:

  • Leonard Boyle | deputy chief state’s attorney for Connecticut and former director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center in Washington D.C.
  • Christopher Davis | Manchester Police captain and public information officer
  • Anthony Gaunichaux | Middlesex County NAACP first vice president
  • Colleen Murphy | executive director and general counsel for the Connecticut FOI Commission, and frequent lecturer at NEFAC’s annual New England First Amendment Institute

In a review published in February, The Washington Post found that many states are struggling with the issue of how to regulate police cameras and the footage they produce. According to the article, nine states have regulations on how the cameras should be used and 12 have passed laws that restrict access to the footage. Meanwhile, video footage of police officers have brought attention to officer-involved shootings.

In Connecticut the issue of police images has been a major discussion point since the 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The state legislature sealed off police records that depict a homicide victim in response to the massacre.

In 2015, after a major push from FOI advocates, the General Assembly passed a law clarifying access to police arrest records. It includes a provision that requires disclosure of images and video depicting an arrest, according to a summary from the Connecticut FOI Commission.

Panelists will talk about the fight for access to records in Connecticut and the region, and discuss the broader issues behind police recordings.

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NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Donations can be made here. Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Boston Globe and Boston University.

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