Lawmakers Lobbying to Enforce Rules for Releasing Police Body Camera Footage

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SACRAMENTO -- Police body cameras are catching on in law enforcement agencies all over the country. But while more officers are wearing them, the video they produce is rarely shown to the public.

The sole purpose of body cameras is to provide a permanent set of eyes to create a record. Kevin Baker with the ACLU says too often that truth is kept from the public.

"Unfortunately, some of the law enforcement agencies are trying to control this in a way that we think is not going to be beneficial,” Baker told FOX40.

He's not the only one who feels that way. After an officer shot and killed a 17-year-old in Chicago, the public was outrage that it took more than a year for the footage to be released. Once it was, the officer was charged.

That incident drove State Assemblyman Bill Quirk to act.

"We've seen what happens when video doesn't get released. It destroyed the political fabric in Chicago. I don't want that to happen in California,” Quirk said.

He introduced a bill calling for all body cam video that shows an officer-involved shooting to be released, except if a judge says otherwise. This week it passed the assembly judiciary committee.

"It holds both the public responsible for what they've done, and the officer responsible for what they've done,” said Quirk.

John McGinness, retired Sacramento County Sheriff, says law enforcement is almost entirely on the same side of this issue-video evidence is part of their investigation. It shouldn't be released until the investigation is done.

"Does the public have a right to know? Yes. But I believe, at the very least, due process should be allowed to take place,” McGinness said.

He added that showing only a portion of video could mislead people, even potential jurors for a future trial. But quirk says unless the state puts pressure on law enforcement, they won’t be held accountable. Waiting for an investigation to finish could take years.

"Where it's used right there was better behavior by both officers and the public,” said McGinness.

The issue, now, remains in the hands of his fellow lawmakers.

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