DES MOINES — A disparate group of lobbying groups are backing legislation to establish an interim study group to look at issues stemming from the use of body cameras by law enforcement.
In fact, several groups not already part of a 13-member panel proposed in House File 2465 asked a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing Tuesday to be included in the study.
The subcommittee heard requests to be included in the study from the Iowa State Police Officers Association, State Police Officers Council, Iowa Broadcasters Association and Iowa Association for Justice.
That might make the panel a “mini-legislature” that has difficulty reaching consensus on statewide standards for the use, storage, cost, retention, public inspection and confidentiality of body camera audio and video recordings, Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, worried.
The intent is to bring together a group “to try to put together some rules that everybody is comfortable with,” subcommittee member Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, said. “LOL. That’s going to be difficult.”
However, she said the standards are needed by people who seek to obtain the recordings, as well as for law enforcement “who don’t want to be embroiled in constant litigation.”
Des Moines Senior Police Officer Matt Harkin of the Iowa Police Officers Association — “the ones out on the street wearing the cameras” — agreed. He didn’t know how many departments use body cameras but said how departments use cameras and handle the recording varies widely.
“Not surprisingly, there’s a huge difference between their availability of cameras and, frankly, the training,” added Paula Feltner, a lobbyist for the police officers association. “Currently, departments have rules, and bigger cities tend to be the ones who have the most rules. Some smaller departments don’t get training, they don’t have rules, so we think we could offer a variety of viewpoints” if added to the study group.
Margaret Johnson of the Iowa Public Information Board said her office deals with body cameras issues on a daily basis.
“It would be helpful to have some guidelines and some ability to figure out exactly what (the law) means with respect to body cameras,” Johnson said.
The current open records law predates body cameras and digital storage of audio and video recordings.
“Technology has far outpaced the law on this,” Harkin concurred.
The bill, which was approved by the House Local Government Committee, now goes to the full Judiciary Committee. A companion bill in the Senate has not received a hearing.
The House bill calls for these groups to be part of the interim study committee on body cameras: Iowa Public Information Board, Iowa Freedom of Information Council, Iowa Newspaper Association, Department of Justice, Iowa Peace Officers Association, Iowa Police Chiefs Association, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Department of Public Safety, Iowa County Attorneys Association, Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association, Office of the State Public Defender, Iowa League of Cities and American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.