Criminal Defense Attorney David Gold Explains MPD’s Body Camera Policy

RELEASED: November 2, 2015


The recent police officer shootings of and use of excessive force against unarmed U.S. citizens have gained national attention and sparked outrage among people of all ages, races and political affiliations. As members of the public learned of the circumstances that lead to the deaths of unarmed black men like Eric Garner, Michael Brown Jr. and Walter Scott; law enforcement officials were called upon to provide more transparency into their actions and rebuild trust within the communities they serve.

In response, numerous police departments across the country began equipping individual officers with body cameras. In September, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong announced that his department has 500 body cameras which MPD officers began wearing last month.

While the use of body cameras has gained widespread support from both Memphis residents and members of the MPD, questions and concerns remain about the MPD’s policy with regard to the cameras’ use and access to the video footage.

At a press conference about MPD’s body camera program, Armstrong noted that the current policy requires that body cameras be turned on “at every citizen encounter” and also when a police officer responds to a dispatch call. He also stated that access to the actual video footage that is captured will be made available on a “case by case basis.”

This policy is somewhat concerning to Memphis criminal defense attorney David Gold, who was asked to weigh in about the MPD’s use of body cameras in a recent WMC-TV story. Gold explains that while the Tennessee Open Records Act protects a citizen’s right to access and view any video footage that is captured by police body camera, access may be restricted in cases where an investigation is ongoing or the “video is of a graphic nature that has sensitive issues.”

Gold notes, however, that Memphis area residents “can find their way around,” these restrictions, explaining that “if a member of the public is denied access, then that person can appeal to the chancery court or the circuit court.”

In cases where an individual believes that he or she was the victim of police brutality or where criminal charges follow an arrest, video footage captured via police body cameras can be critical to proving or disproving claims of wrongdoing.

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