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Recently passed body-camera laws generally apply to all law enforcement officers who interact with the public.

Legislatures Require Police Body Camera Use Statewide

By Arthur Wagner | April 30, 2021 | State Legislatures News | Print

Seven states now mandate the statewide use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement officers. Those states are Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Carolina.

The body-camera laws in all those states except South Carolina were put in place within the last year. Prior to May 2020, South Carolina was the only state to require widespread adoption of body-worn cameras.

The New Jersey and South Carolina laws make implementation of body-camera programs contingent on funding from the legislature. New Jersey appropriated funding in 2020. Before requiring statewide adoption, Colorado and Connecticut had grant programs dating back to 2015 to encourage adoption of body-worn cameras. Connecticut’s 2020 law authorizes $4 million in bonds for a new grant program to fund related equipment and service purchases by municipalities. The grants can cover 30% to 50% of equipment costs as well as costs for digital storage for up to one year.

The laws generally apply to all law enforcement officers who are interacting with the public. But they typically exclude officers working in courtrooms or other secure areas or confidential settings, nor do they apply to administrators or civilian staff.

Phased Rollout

A couple of the states have staggered implementation to allow agencies to purchase equipment, adopt policies and train their officers. Connecticut’s law goes into effect on July 1, 2022; Colorado’s on July 1, 2023. Illinois has a three-year phased implementation starting Jan. 1, 2023, based on population size of each locality.

The laws generally limit public dissemination of camera footage except for statutorily specified purposes. New Jersey and South Carolina permit the release of footage to the people involved in a recording or their attorneys. New Jersey further allows release in instances where the public interest outweighs the need for confidentiality. New Mexico allows for the release of footage, but recordings can be withheld if they reveal confidential information or identify people accused of, but not charged with, a crime. Maryland allows for camera footage to be released under the state’s public information act.

The laws also regulate how long law enforcement agencies must keep the footage. Colorado requires footage to be released to the public within 21 days after a complaint is received, but that can be increased to 45 days if footage could compromise an investigation. In Illinois, footage must be maintained for a minimum of 90 days and two years if flagged. South Carolina requires keeping the footage for a minimum of 14 days.

Arthur “AJ” Wagner is an expert in law enforcement technology laws.

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