Body Worn Video Steering Group

Do Police Deserve ‘Lottery Winner’ Style Protection?

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The approval of a bill that keeps secret the names of lottery winners for 90 days after they claim their money has led to comparison to deadly incidents caught on body worn video cameras; and what means if protection is afforded to the officer/victim(s).

Lottery Police Protection Body Worn Video Steering Group

“Please name me the last five lottery winners — and if you can’t then it’s probably not necessary to know,” Senator John Kavanagh said. He got the idea after a lottery winner from Arizona wanted to keep his identity secret, saying “This gives them time to set up security,” adding he recalled thinking, “These guys’ kids might get kidnapped. What a horrible thing. Do we really need to have his name plastered everywhere?”

Kavanagh is also pushing SB 1300, which would keep secret the recorded video from body cameras worn by law-enforcement officers unless a court order or a subpoena is issued. The public could get footage of incidents involving the “use or attempted use of deadly physical force” if law-enforcement agencies agree to release it.

Washington State has already faced problems when becoming inundated with FOI requests to gain access to all video footage, much of which contains ‘action’ (i.e. police interactions with suspects) which is expected to be used for an online/TV entertainment format.

Kavanagh says he wants to prevent the footage from being exploited by websites “that post embarrassing information” about law-enforcement officials and suspects.

“We don’t want to turn every cop into an inadvertent camera man for reality TV,” he said. “This is a whole new phenomenon of police carrying cameras. Right off the start we need to say, ‘Only some of this is public information.'”

Attorney Chris Moeser said such legislation would “breed suspicion of the police.”

“People tend to suspect what they can’t see,” Moeser said.

Lawmakers also want to shield for 90 days the names of police involved in potentially deadly incidents. The names could be released earlier if the officer agrees, if a criminal investigation ends or if the officer has been arrested or charged.

Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, says he introduced SB 1445 to prevent death threats and harassment of officers involved in shootings: “It doesn’t mean they’re going to hide facts,” Smith said, adding that 90 days is enough time to get the officer counselling “and in some sort of a witness protection (program)”. Not too long ago, some sought the end to secret grand juries where body worn video was involved.

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association supports the measure, which lobbyist Mike Williams said provided a “cooling off period,” needed to avoid the type of unrest that occurred in Ferguson, Mo., following the deadly shooting of an unarmed Black teen by a White police officer.

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