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As I See It

Police body camera footage should be public record

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Increasingly, police across the country are wearing body cameras. Yet the laws governing what and when the camera’s footage should be made public remain a hodgepodge. It is increasingly important, as the public relies on body cam footage to determine whether to exonorate or implicate police, that the laws governing the footage be clear and concise. That is why it is good to see that a state committee has now begun discussions about how body camera footage should be regulated in Wisconsin. Lawmakers in the last session deliberated the issue, but with no resolution. The legislation they considered would have made it almost impossible for the public to see body cam footage out of fears that releasing it could be a violation of privacy rights for those seen on camera. They also fear those crime victims or those who are seen cooperating with police could be targeted by those involved. But releasing these tapes, under nearly every circumstance, is the only way for the public to really know what happened. This committee should follow the example of the state’s current open records laws, which have served us well for decades and assume that all body camera video be available to the public, except under very rare circumstances.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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