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Police Body Cameras Spark Privacy Debate

In 2013, only a quarter of police departments in the United States used body cameras.

“I think that we treat evidence like evidence. At the end of the day, we don’t publish crime scene photos, nor should we. Why on earth did a man who was suffering a mental health issue have his last moments on Earth played out on the six o’clock news?”

That’s state Sen. Daniel Thatcher referring to the 2014 death of Jason Harrison at the hands of police in Dallas, Texas, in order to make his point that police body camera footage shouldn’t be distributed through the media. The comments came during a Wednesday Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee meeting in Salt Lake City.

The use of police body cameras has wide support in the Beehive State. 83 percent of Utahns approve of the technology. Police departments storing footage are faced with competing claims of privacy for those involved and public access under the Government Records Access and Management Act. Riverton Republican state Rep. Daniel McCay, who introduced HB386, which would designate body camera footage as private record, said that public access to the recordings could become an issue.

“Second is the privacy concerns that comes with these recordings being available and when it’s appropriate for GRAMA to be accessed, so that body camera footage can be made available to the public,” McCay said. “Should your neighbor be able to GRAMA the record of what happened in your house on Saturday night and be able to call up that testimony?”

In another poll, 31 percent of Utahns said they felt the police were too quick to use deadly force.