January 9, 2019The Journal Record |
OKLAHOMA CITY – As body camera use becomes more prevalent among law enforcement agencies, an Oklahoma lawmaker is trying to reduce costs by cutting the minimum storage period for some videos.
Major cities across the country have established surveillance systems for their police departments, and that has been the case in Oklahoma. Oklahoma City, Norman, Tulsa and several other agencies have fully implemented programs.
Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, serves as his chamber’s public safety chairman. He said he’s talked with several sheriffs’ agencies across the state that have said body camera programs are cost prohibitive.
“They said, ‘We don’t use them simply because we can’t afford the storage,’” he said.
His bill would allow sheriffs’ offices to have a little more leeway in how long they store those videos. Most organizations have to maintain the records for 7 years. Legislation passed in 2017 brought that down to one year for sheriffs’ offices.
Shaw’s 2019 legislation, Senate Bill 196, would allow sheriffs’ offices to delete any video that is determined to be non-evidentiary after 90 days. That designation can be made when police officers or prosecutors decide whether the video is needed in an investigation.
Shaw said if there is an issue within the recordings, law enforcement agencies including district attorneys will likely realize it before 90 days.
“We basically are just trying to make sure that the material is kept as long as it’s needed without becoming a financial burden on the law enforcement agency,” he said.
A handful of states have similar laws. Texas requires all video to be kept for a minimum of 90 days but longer if investigators deem it necessary.
Andy Moore is the director of FOI Oklahoma, an organization that advocates for freedom of information and government record access. He said the measure is likely well-intentioned but could cause some collateral damage because three months likely isn’t long enough to make a decision on whether the video is necessary for an investigation.
“It could inadvertently impede the public’s access to public information that could be important down the road,” he said. “We’re certainly sensitive to the ever-increasing costs that jurisdictions may face. But perhaps the need is to find additional funding, not to reduce (retention periods).”
The measure is one of about 200 bills that have been filed so far. Lawmakers typically submit several hundred pieces of legislation to be considered during the session. Their deadline is Jan. 17.