Body cams being issued to officers in Memphis, Tennessee

Police Chief in Memphis, Tennessee, has stated that a policy of having body cameras installed and used by all officers on the squad is a work in progress. He said also that the new cameras will be up and running by October 2015. Each day, another 50 officers are to be trained and have their cameras issued.

It is the goal of the police department to have every officer turn their camera on at every single citizen encounter as well as when the officers are called out. Of course, since this policy is new, there may be changes in the future.

The technology, though new to Memphis's police department, is an added layer of documentation to record and verify events, actions, conditions and statements during a stop or an arrest. This can only be a good thing, in light of recent events all over the country.

The cameras will assist the men and women on the force by improving the accuracy of reports, evidence collection and even by verifying information when they testify in court. They provide a needed level of transparency.

State access to the recordings, at this time, will be given on a case-by-case basis. However, under the Tennessee Open Records Act, citizens of this state may have unrestricted access to all the recordings available, whether they are on a dash cam or a body camera.

There is a small hitch that may raise questions. If the video is of a highly personal nature, containing images that don't need to be publicly viewed, the records custodian may employ discretion. Gold Law Firm attorney David Gold expounds on this loophole: "In my experience, when the video is of a graphic nature that has sensitive issues that maybe don't need to be shown to the public at that time, then the custodian of records would have some discretion to withhold that." (Quoted from the following WMC Action News 5 video shown below)

6pm - mpd gold law from Felicia Bolton on Vimeo.

If you are a member of the public and want access to a video recording, you can request it. If you are denied access to this video, you may take the issue to court and appeal the decision in the circuit court or the chancery court.

Being aware of this undertaking and the changing rules that apply can be empowering to you as a citizen of the state of Tennessee.

Source: WMC Action News 5, "Legality of MPD body camera transparency examined," Felicia Bolton, Sep. 24, 2015

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