Gov. Rick Snyder has signed HB 4427 into law (now Public Act 85 of 2017), which exempts public release of footage from police body cameras if the footage was taken in a person’s private residence. The new law also request that police departments create rules for disclosure and retention of audio and video recordings from body cameras worn by police officers. The bill was unanimously approved by both chambers of Michigan Legislature.
Public Act 85 exempts the recordings from public-records request under certain circumstances, including if the recordings were made in a “private place.” Recordings also will be kept private during ongoing criminal or internal investigations but only for listed reasons such as public disclosure interfering with law enforcement proceedings or invading personal privacy. Body camera recordings retained as part of civil lawsuits will not be considered public records.
The MAB has serious concerns about this law and testified against this bill in previous legislative sessions. By stating that body-worn camera footage is not a public record, this law places the recorded content outside the purview of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in connection with criminal or internal investigations. Exempting such recordings removes any chance of impartial, neutral and judicial review of exemptions as provided by the FOIA. Furthermore, 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.