Capitol Alert

California lawmakers block police body camera legislation

Here's how police body cameras work

Peter Austin Onruang, president of Wolfcom, which makes body cameras, shows reporters how the devices work. Onruang says one unit costs between $250 and $400, depending on how many cameras a department wants each officer to wear. Onruang testified
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Peter Austin Onruang, president of Wolfcom, which makes body cameras, shows reporters how the devices work. Onruang says one unit costs between $250 and $400, depending on how many cameras a department wants each officer to wear. Onruang testified

The California legislative session will end without any action on the contentious issue of access to body camera footage and other police records after a final surviving measure was held in committee Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 2611, which would have blocked the public release of recordings depicting the deaths of officers unless authorized by their families, was pulled from consideration by its author before a vote in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

“It’s disappointing that a very modest bill that would simply deal with the video or audio of a peace officer being murdered wasn’t able to pass this year,” Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, said in a statement. “Those that claim they are committed to transparency but stood in its way in this case, should join with us because I plan on bringing this bill back next year and the year after that until it gets passed.”

AB 2611 was one of a handful of measures introduced this year concerning the release of law enforcement records, with a particular focus on the footage from body cameras that are proliferating across the state.

Reflecting a national debate over police use of force, advocacy groups pushing for more accountability and law enforcement unions seeking privacy protections for officers brought proposals to the Capitol. Bills to open investigative records on police shootings, set a timeline for the release of body camera footage depicting alleged misconduct, and allow officers to file an injunction against the release of footage were previously defeated.

Though it initially passed the Assembly unanimously in May, AB 2611 encountered increasing obstacles in the Senate as opponents such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the California Newspaper Publishers Association stepped up their lobbying efforts. The bill narrowly passed the Senate last week, where many members rose to speak against a policy creating less transparency in law enforcement rather than more, and had returned to the Assembly for concurrence on some amendments.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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