(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel
Dash cams and body cams have the potential to be among the best public safety tools police have at their disposal. By creating more public safety transparency, they will promote better relations between police and public and help build the trust a community must have for policing to work they way it should.
So congratulations to the Indiana General Assembly for recognizing the cameras’ benefits this past session and coming up with a regulatory framework for their use.
But there are a couple of snags that could impede the progress in making the cameras as effective as they could be. One involves the cost, which is something the legislature can address. The other involved the rules of professional conduct laid down by the Indiana Supreme Court, and that is something the court must address.
Two Indiana cities have already stopped using the cameras because of the costs of storing the video, and other cities are taking a hard look at the program.
Clarksville, a southern Indiana town just north of Louisville, Kentucky, began using body cameras in 2012. That program ended in late June when the cameras were pulled in response to Indiana’s new law requiring agencies using the cameras to store the videos for at least 190 days. The department’s video storage and camera maintenance costs had been between $5,000 and $10,000 a year under its 30-day video storage policy. But the new law that took effect July 1 would have raised those costs to $50,000 to $100,000 for the first year.
The court’s conduct rule prohibits influencing a potential jury pool and “increasing public condemnation of a defendant.”
The court has made it clear that prosecutors may not use the Access to Public Records Act as a tool to violate its Rules of Professional Conduct. Law enforcement recordings often include material that is prejudicial to a defendant. So sometimes the law might require release of a recording, but if the recording is deemed prejudicial, releasing it could violate those conduct rules.
Eventually, storage costs will come down, but in the meantime the legislature either needs to reduce the storage time required or help police departments with the costs. The Supreme Court has the ability to change its rules and should look at them carefully in light of sweeping technological changes.