New police body camera rules in Pa.


New rules governing when police can film using body cameras and spelling out how the public can seek access to the footage are now in place.

Media and civil liberties groups say the law, which took effect Tuesday, creates an “insurmountable barrier” that will prevent most people from using the Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know law to see footage from body cameras worn by police.

“While there is language in the act that suggests public access is possible, the fact remains that the bill creates a significant — and in most cases insurmountable — barrier to public access,” said Holly Lubart, director of legislative affairs for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA).

Police welcomed the change to the law because before Act 22 took effect, body camera use conflicted with state wiretap laws, which bars recording in private residences without consent of the owner, said Tom Gross, executive director of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.

Chiefs worried that “you could have a police officer mistakenly turn on his body camera and be charged with a felony” for violating the wiretap law, Gross said.

Police also support the legislation’s move to exclude body camera footage from the normal Right-to-Know process.

“This protects the privacy of anyone who might have day-to-day interaction with the police including people reporting crimes, victims, witnesses and bystanders,” said Ryan Tarkowski, a state police spokesman. “Video will still be available to parties with direct involvement — like a pending court case — and be made public in certain circumstances.”

Post time: Jul-18-2019
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