Body Cameras Exempted From FOIA in House Bill

State Representative Jim Runestad (R-44) re-introduced legislation (HB 4427) to exempt body camera footage from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  The MAB has very serious concerns about this legislation which bears on transparency and the public’s right to know.

Specifically:

  • HB 4427 places body‐worn camera footage, in connection with criminal or internal investigation, outside the purview of FOIA by stating that the footage is not a public record (Section 5). This classification places body camera footage outside any FOIA provisions and exemptions.
  • HB 4427 creates a new category of ‘private places’ as exemptible under the FOIA. The FOIA already has an existing privacy exemption, which is meant to confirm with the Michigan common law on the invasion of privacy. This privacy exemption protects persons under certain circumstances – it does not extend such privacy protection to places. Under the Michigan jurisprudence, privacy is a uniquely personal concept.
  • Exempting such recordings from the FOIA removes any chance of impartial, neutral and judicial review of exemptions as provided by the FOIA.
  • There are unanswered questions about the manner in which the law enforcement will collect, retain, use and disclose these recordings. Each of those issues bears on the public’s right to know.

The MAB was opposed to this legislation when it was last introduced and will oppose it again, taking our concerns to the Senate.  See the full bill here.

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