Delaware Public Media

Statewide police body cam policy prompts backlash over transparency issues

Jun 30, 2016

Delaware legislators and law enforcement officials released a statewide body camera policy Wednesday amid criticism from a civil rights group that it lacks depth and transparency.

Under the guidelines, officers would have to turn on the camera when an arrest or the use of force is likely. Police should also tell individuals they’re recording, unless it’s unsafe or impractical.

 

They would be able to stop recording when speaking to a victim of sexual assault, confidential informants or undercover officers.

 

Kathleen MacRae, head of the Delaware ACLU, says these new guidelines don’t give enough context to police encounters if an officer is only required to turn it on shortly before making an arrest.

 

“It allows much too much leeway for video to be massaged, let’s say – to show an incident in a particular light instead of laying the whole thing out there,” MacRae said.

 

She also takes issue with the policy barring citizens from reviewing footage.

 

The policy will not be included in state code and police departments across the state can make tweaks as they see fit.

 

Jeffrey Horvath, head of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council, says the policy is ideal because it’s more nimble and can be changed quickly if problems develop.

 

“I don’t think that anyone is trying to circumvent the system. I think this is a new program and a new policy and until you work out the kinds you’re slowing down the process by requiring the legislature to modify how this stuff is done,” Horvath said.

 

Right now, seven police departments throughout the First State use body cameras, while Delaware State Police is testing a possible program.

 

A statewide pilot program never got off the ground this year once state lawmakers cut proposed funding for it from the budget.