The District’s ACLU chapter isn’t on board with Muriel Bowser‘s attempt to shield new police body-camera footage from open records requests. In a press release, the group says equipping officers with the cameras while shielding the results from the public would amount to another tool for police surveillance.
Bowser’s budget support act includes language that blocks all Freedom of Information Act requests for body-camera footage, an unusually wide-ranging exemption.
The mayor’s office says the footage would take too long to redact. Mayoral spokesman Michael Czin claims that redacting just one minute of footage takes more than four hours. The police camera pilot program produced 5,000 hours of footage, which Czin claims would take more than a million hours to redact. While the footage would still be available in investigations or court cases, it would leave the general public in the dark.
“We’re really trying to strike the right balance between transparency and privacy,” Czin says.
But the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital isn’t buying it.
“Without establishing a FOIA exemption that allows for public access, the Council and Mayor are using taxpayer funds to give MPD another tool to surveille communities—-not provide a tool for police accountability,” the ACLU chapter’s release states.
The debate heads to the D.C. Council next week. Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie has scheduled a hearing on the exemption for May 7.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery