Study Committee on Body Cameras Discusses First Draft of Bill

The Study Committee on the Use of Police Body Cameras met for what was expected to be the last time on Oct. 18. However, because of concerns with the current bill draft, it was determined that the committee will need to meet one final time.

The first part of the meeting was spent reviewing the preliminary draft bill. The bill creates a public policy balancing test to determine whether there should be public access to body camera data. Public interest must outweigh the policy of privacy in order to allow access to data involving certain record subjects who have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Key components of the bill discussed by the committee included the pixelization requirements that would be triggered if the balancing test weighs in the favor of privacy. The committee also spent significant time discussing an element of the bill called the “Woznicki fix” which refers to a notification process and the right to seek judicial review for a record to be released. Should it be determined that a record be released and that the identity of record subject be released, then the “Woznicki” process could be utilized. The committee also decided to remove “witness” as included as the record subject for the application of the public policy balancing test and pixelization requirements.

The committee also discussed how the retention and policy requirements prescribed in the bill would be limited to body cameras and that data from dash cams and interviews would not fall under the purview of the bill. While some committee members felt this would create inconsistencies in the statutes to treat different records differently, it was ultimately decided that it was outside the scope of the committee. In general, several committee members, including Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield), expressed concerns that the bill was overcomplicating the use of body cameras and would have an adverse effect on the use of body cameras by law enforcement.

After the morning discussion, the Committee Chair, Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) determined that several committee members still had concerns with the current draft and that they needed to proceed with another iteration before a vote.

The committee discussed several items that will be changed in a new draft, including removing Woznicki language from the bill and the list of items that would not be subject to inspection under the bill.  There were also several motions made to make other changes to the bill. Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) made a motion to expand the timeframe for the incidents that are exceptions to the 120-day retention rule to the longer of either three years or final disposition of any case or complaint. The motion failed to pass. Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) also made a motion to eliminate the option for video to be destroyed after 120 days. The motion passed. Taylor made another motion, which was subsequently withdrawn, to incorporate a presumption that cameras be activated when law enforcement officers interact for a law enforcement or investigative purpose. Larson made a final failed motion to require disciplinary policy be a component of the body camera policy.

The committee will review a revised draft based on the changes discussed and then meet again to vote on the legislation.

Committee members and documents

Summary of September meeting

Summary of August meeting