By Shelby Mullis
Indiana media associations are frustrated with a new bill that, if passed, could restrict the public release of law enforcement recordings.
“We feel like the current language right now makes it nearly impossible for the public or the media to access video of a particular police incident. We think that is a bad idea,” said Dave Crooks, Indiana Broadcasters Association
Crooks’ argument is similar to those of other media associations who see House Bill 1019
as a violation of the public’s right to know. The bill could require the media or the public to get a court order to see body camera video. A House committee unanimously passed the bill last week.
The bill’s author, Rep. Kevin Mahan
, R-Hartford City, said legislation is a result of a summer study committee that passed the bill unanimously in an effort to balance public records, transparency and privacy rights.
“I, as the public, don’t need to see everything that may be obtained on a police body camera,” Mahan said. “You know what? The media doesn’t either. That’s what we are sitting here dealing with is that delicate balance of the need to know and the timing of when the need to know is.”
Mahan added that the bill has received equal support from everyone, but the media.
“What we now will have is the media or John Q. Public, or people not involved directly with this, if they want to see the video or try to obtain a copy, they’ll go to the respective law enforcement agency,” Mahan said. “That law enforcement agency will have some discretion, as much as like they do now, as to whether or not they are going to release that video.”
Crooks is concerned the bill would make it difficult to hold law enforcement accountable.
“If there is a high profile investigation in a particular community, there might be some information being passed around that the facts being presented by the law enforcement agency may not be clear,” Crooks said. “We want to be able to have an opportunity to take a look at that and make sure that what they’re saying matches what was recorded on those videos.”
Mahan said body cameras are supposed to be used for law enforcement investigations and not for the media.
A “good balance, but delicate” balance was reached, Mahan added, but if the bill is passed and is misused, he said he’ll be back next year to fix any issues.
Shelby Mullis is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College students.