Debate Over Making Body Camera Video Public Intensifies

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FAIRFIELD --

As more and more police officers get body mounted cameras, departments across the country are trying to decide if the video record will be public record or not.

Already, the Fairfield Police Department has said any video which captures a crime will not be.

"Obviously, anything that is evidence in a criminal case will not be released," said Sgt. Matt Bloesch, spokesperson for the Fairfield Police Department.

The video marked as evidence will eventually be publicly shown when its presented in a court room to a jury, according to Bloesch. But that's usually up to the District Attorney's office.

But Bloesch told FOX40 all other body camera video will be considered public record and could be requested.

"Any other requests that come in we'll release on a case-by-case basis," Bloesch said.

But that's not the way some feel it should be with public record video.

"It should always be released, and not just when it's showing the police in a good light," said defense attorney John Campanella, who has handled numerous DUI cases involving police and their on-board dash cameras. "There's often times a disagreement between the client and what is in the police report."

Still, Campanella agrees police shouldn't immediately release video of a crime which can be used as evidence.

"It gets on the news and the public sees it. Then, it might be hard to select a jury, people could be tainted by things," Campanella told FOX40.

Another issue with making the footage public is sometimes these cameras are rolling where there's an expectation of privacy, like inside someone's living room.

That means officers must ad blur effects to the video afterward, an effort which takes time, and can cost money.

But by keeping the video as evidence, privacy concerns are removed, according to Bloesch, and will show a clearer picture of what happened.

"We want to be as transparent as possible, and that means releasing the video, as it was recorded. When you blur a face, you could be hiding someone's facial expressions, which non-verbal communication as we all know is something that that's how human beings interact," Bloesch told FOX40.

The Fairfield Police Department has been using body cameras for two years. But in all that time, it has only released one video.

It shows the mother of an abducted boy, Suzanne Guzman, being arrested in April.

The arrest came after Guzman got into an argument with officers who wanted to enter her home, while she wanted to keep them outside for fear her dogs could bite them.

"We thought that it was fair to release our prospective of the entire incident, so that the members of our community can make their own decision," Bloesch said.

But the Guzman family told FOX40 the department did not release video of Suzanne's husband, Paul being mistreated durning his arrested.

"There's always that potential there that they might try to cover something up," Campanella said.

The Guzman family has filed a lawsuit in that case.

Meanwhile Bloesch said the department did not blur any faces because the arrested happened in public view, on the Guzman's driveway. But had the arrest been in their living room, Bloesch said the video likely wouldn't not have been made public.

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