FEATURE Surveillance & Body Cams

requested, even to the point of fining agencies if they are not in compliance with the timelines to respond and pro- vide the requested information.” Washington law required he comply with the request

for any and all videos requested, including one request for every video since the inception of their program, at the time about one year’s worth of video. Further complicating the request was their requirement to redact things such as juveniles, certain types of crime victims, NCIC/NCIS data, and also provide an opportunity for people who are in the videos to stop the videos from being released. Townsend stated, “The last part is the most difficult. If

the incident is in public, it’s not a big deal since there is no expectation of privacy there, but when in someone’s home, it becomes an issue. So trying to determine after the fact who all was in the video can be nearly impossible. At one point while responding to this request, we considered if we would have to put an announcement in the newspaper and our websites to try to blanket notify anyone who was in a video who didn’t want it released to contact us.” Townsend stated, “Our officers love the cameras and frankly it brings about the best behavior on both sides of the camera. I suspect in time, with some studies, we will see a nationwide reduction in officer use-of-force incidents and assaults and injuries to officers. A win-win situation.” Townsend suggested carefully studying how current laws

in your state impact retention and redaction, in order to de- lete videos no longer required in case of FOIA requests. He said it is not only the camera technology to consider, but also the options for storage and redaction because these things will cost an agency money over time. He supports cloud storage technology because in-house storage can be far more expensive with the opportunity for errors and omissions of data higher than using the vendor’s cloud storage.

Orlando Police Body Cam Study Brian Cechowski, Master Police Officer, Technology & Proj- ects Coordinator for the Orlando, Fla. Police Department, stated that a body camera study for his department led by the University of South Florida was extremely successful. “The study revealed a 29.7 percent reduction in com-

plaints for all officers involved in the study. Response to resistance was reduced by 7 percent in the study group. Injuries to officers wearing the cameras were reduced from one per month to none, and injuries to suspects were re- duced from four per month to one, in the first nine months of the study. Minor vehicle crashes were reduced by 54 per- cent in the cameras user group and by 25 percent in the control group during the study period.” Florida wiretap law requires consent of both parties be-

fore any conversation is recorded. Cechowski, however, stated, “An exception has been in place for years for in- person communication when the parties do not have a rea- sonable expectation of privacy in the conversation, such as when they are engaged in a conversation in a public place

60 LAW and ORDER I April 2016

Officer J. Catanzaro, Orlando Police Department, records interactions with a citizen while on patrol.

where they might reasonably be overheard. The easy ex- ample I use involves police in-car cameras. “Officers are equipped with remote body-worn micro- phones to pick up audio and verbal communications, and notification is not mandatory that the subject is being re- corded. Ultimately, officers have discretion on when to give notice to a subject about the body cam, but there should be a positive change in behavior once the subject is aware that his/her actions are being recorded.” Cechowski stated that Orlando Police officers are very pleased with the body-worn cameras. “Response to the ad- dition of BWCs has been very positive. Officers who are not equipped with a camera routinely ask for the officers who do to assist with their calls for service, so the event can be captured on video. I have an active list of officers who want a body camera as soon as one is available. In the surveys to the camera users from USF, one officer was quoted, ‘Chief, please do not take my camera away when the study is over.’” Cechowski said that the recent Florida legislation ex-

empts from public-records laws any body cam footage re- corded within a private residence, a medical facility, or in a place that a reasonable person would expect to be private. He commented, “I understand that to mean that any video captured in those locations is protected, and would not be released on a FOIA request.”

Kathy Marks has been a child abuse investigator for more than 30 years. She teaches classes regarding domestic terrorism and is a previous contributor to LAW and ORDER. She can be reached at

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