Body Cam Legislation Stirs Debate

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EVANSVILLE, INDIANA — Police body camera footage could soon be gone, or at least harder for people to get their hands on, thanks to some legislation going through the Indiana State House.

“We believe that 100 percent transparency is for the betterment of everyone,” Gerald Arnold, the president of Evansville’s NAACP chapter, said.

The Indiana House passed a bill Tuesday, which would give law enforcement more discretion over how video is released, placing the burden on the party requesting the video rather than on law enforcement.

Arnold said it is disappointing that the good coming from having the body cameras could soon be negated by this pending legislation.

“We’re moving forward to establishing trust and accountability through those body cameras,” he said.

“It can paint us in a bad light when people don’t understand why we did something or how we did it,” Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin said.

Bolin said having body cameras helps increase transparency and builds community trust.

“For people to imply that we’re hiding or covering it up, that’s not true,” he said.

But even if the bill were to pass, he doesn’t see too much changing, at least in Evansville.

“Here in Evansville, I’m all about being transparent,” he said. “We will still release videos. We’re not trying to cover things up. We want to do it properly.”

“It’s vitally important that the police have those,” Arnold said. “And it’s not just for their safety. It’s for everybody’s safety.”

All but one state representative in the Tri-State voted for the bill. The bill would require a person requesting video to file a lawsuit proving the public interest would be served with the video’s release.

It would also set up a schedule for how long police must keep the video, among other requirements.

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