Civil rights group: Police failing to develop bodycam policies

Civil rights groups have released a new report that says most major metropolitan police departments have failed to set out clear rules when it comes to having police wear body cameras, or rules governing exactly how bodycam footage can be used, and said most departments aren't making their policies available to the public.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a policy and lobbying organization that represents more than 200 major national civil rights groups, joined with technology consulting firm Upturn to develop a policy scorecard for major cities. The scorecard examined the policies put forth by 25 police departments nationwide, including the 15 largest city forces based on Justice Department funding, that either have body-camera programs or pilot body camera programs.

"Not since 50 years ago, when the brutal images of the Bloody Sunday marchers being savagely beaten in Selma, Alabama, were broadcast across the nation, have we seen video make such a profound impact on our nation's public discourse," Leadership Conference president Wade Henderson told reporters Monday. "Today's citizen-recorded videos have inspired the nation once again. When one hears Eric Garner's plea that he 'can't breathe' or sees Walter Scott being shot from behind, it's hard not to be moved."

The new scorecard report follows the body-worn camera policy guidelines released in May by the Leadership Conference and is the first one that grades how departments are doing. The scorecard evaluates whether each police department:

  • Makes its policy publicly and readily available
  • Limits officer discretion on when to record
  • Addresses personal privacy concerns
  • Prohibits officer pre-report viewing
  • Limits retention of footage
  • Protects footage against tampering and misuse
  • Makes footage available to individuals filing complaints
  • Limits the use of biometric technologies.

But according to the group, not one police department passed all eight evaluations. Atlanta and Ferguson, Mo., failed all eight, meaning the two departments either had a poor policy regarding body-worn cameras or failed to put for a specific policy at all.