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Politics & Government

As police training council crafts Delaware body camera regulations, public wants access to footage

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Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
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A new law requires police statewide to wear body cameras. But first, regulations must be written around how those cameras will be used. 

The Council on Police Training held a second public input session Thursday about the regulations it must develop to govern body camera use, activation, electronic storage and dissemination under the statewide body cameras bill signed into law this summer. 

Kailyn Richards of the Delaware Center for Justice was among a handful of members of the public at Thursday’s session. She said body camera footage can help confirm what happened during a contested interaction.  

“Therefore, the public must receive access to police body cam footage, especially if an encounter with law enforcement results in a complaint, injury or death,” she said. 

The ACLU of Delaware had called for more public engagement ahead of Thursday’s session, after low turnout at a similar one in Dover last week. 

The organization is pushing for a policy that would discipline officers who fail to adhere to recording requirements and ensure any body camera footage tied to a complaint or police use of force is released to the public.

“And I think that whatever is set in the policy should supersede whatever is in LEOBOR that would prevent that disciplinary action,” said Haneef Salaam, the ACLU of Delaware’s Campaign for Smart Justice Manager, during Thursday’s session. 

LEOBOR—or the Delaware Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights—currently shields records of police discipline and complaints from public view. An effort to amend it did not make it through the legislature this year, but lawmakers plan to push it again next year.  

State Sen. Marie Pinkney, one of the sponsors of the body cameras bill, said after Thursday’s session that legal questions about how the regulations would interact with LEOBOR should be clarified before any future sessions.

 

She added that she wants to see regulations emphasize transparency. 

“Making sure that we have not just passed a law that then the public gets no use from,” she said. “So I really want to make sure that we’re getting public access [to the footage].”

Pinkney says she’s “very, very hopeful” that the bill amending LEOBOR to make law-enforcement disciplinary records public and enable the creation of community review boards will pass before the end of legislative session in 2022.

The Council hopes to hold a third meeting to gather public input in Sussex County, but that date is not yet determined. 

The Council must propose its regulations by mid-January—and plans to publish them for public comment in December.

 

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