Utah lawmaker working on police body camera rules



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah needs to set standards so police know when to turn on body cameras, who they should film and how long they should keep video, a state lawmaker said Wednesday.

Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, told lawmakers on an interim law enforcement committee that he's working with police to come up with standards that lawmakers may consider in 2016.

McCay sponsored a bill earlier this year that would have addressed many of those issues but it died during the legislative session.

He said Wednesday that a major issue is how long videos should be stored because the images are kept in large digital files that cost a lot to keep.

Lawmakers also need to set rules about what recordings are public and when cameras should be activated.

"We certainly don't want to train our officers to reach for the button on their camera before they reach for their weapon in life or death situation," McCay said.

Several lawmakers on the panel said they don't want to pass too many regulations because they're afraid it might cause police to decide it's not worth using the cameras.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said cameras are an important tool for police but he worried that lawmakers might be too heavy handed with guidelines.

"For us to come in and throw a bunch of mandates — we're the group that's always screaming about the federal government mandating everything down to us and now we're mandating everything down to the local agencies," Ray said.

He said it might be better to set basic requirements and let police work out the best policy for their own department.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said he didn't think the video recordings should be public records available to the media.

For example, Thatcher said, the videos might show someone in a medical situation and releasing it might violate federal health privacy laws, or the footage might depict someone's private "worst moments that they've experienced."

Lawmakers didn't take any action on the issue Wednesday but said they plan to keep discussing it.

Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, said earlier this month that he'd like to see officers outfitted with body cameras and cameras in patrol vehicles to keep everyone involved in a police encounter honest.

The Utah Department of Public Safety and police departments in St. George and West Valley City have decided to issue body cameras to all officers.

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Michelle L. Price

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