Monday, September 7, 2015

Governor Signs Bill Setting Standards for Use of Police Body Cameras

On October 3rd, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 69 by Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona).  Law enforcement agencies requiring their officers to wear body cameras must now comply with a uniform set of standards.

Currently there is no state requirement that law enforcement agencies adopt body cameras for their officers in the field. However, many local agencies have either adopted such a policy or are likely to do so in the near future. AB 69 is meant to prevent the development of a patchwork quilt of rules across the state. It sets statewide standards for the use of police body cameras.

In November 2014 a study by the U.S. Department of Justice titled, “Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned,” recommended standards be adopted for the use of body cameras. AB 69 seeks to implement those recommendations by requiring:
  • Agency procedures on data collection and storage must follow “best practices”;
  • Agency rules must explicitly prohibit agency personnel from accessing recorded data for any unauthorized or personal use, and from uploading recorded data onto the Internet;
  •  Agency rules must provide sanctions for unauthorized access or use of recorded data;
  • Supervisors must immediately take custody of officers’ cameras after a use of force incident or officer involved shooting, and must be responsible for downloading the data;
  • Data must be categorized according to the type of event recorded;
  • “Non-evidentiary” data (data that does not necessarily have value to aid in an investigation or prosecution) must be retained for a minimum of 60 days;
  • “Evidentiary” data must be retained for a minimum of 2 years (and longer if relevant to a criminal prosecution) in any of the following situations:
    • Use of force incident or officer involved shooting;
    • Detention or arrest of an individual;
    • Formal or informal complaint against the officer or agency.
  • Logs of access and data deletion must be retained permanently;
  • Third party vendors used for data storage must be reputable and have procedures in place to prevent tampering, provide for automatic data backup, and meet legal requirements for chain-of-custody concerns.

Law enforcement agencies will need to update their policies on body cameras to conform to these new requirements. Peace officer associations should make sure their members are made aware of all rules about body cameras and recorded data to prevent any causes for discipline. Also, associations should negotiate with agencies about an officer’s right to view data recorded from body cameras, which is not addressed by AB 69 but raises POBR concerns.

AB 69 faced almost no opposition as it moved through the Legislature, receiving only one “no” vote and receiving no public opposition. It goes into effect January 1, 2016.