I consider myself a fair minded person. And I have nothing against the state of Massachusetts. Indeed, I love to think about the 1975 Reds beating the Red Sox in the greatest World Series ever. I am a huge fan of Larry Bird. And I even grudgingly respect Tom Brady.
But I saw this article about a proposed law in Massachusetts that would put all police body camera footage off limits to the public. And I can’t think of any other adjective than “stupid.” Apparently State Representative Denise Provost is sponsoring a bill that would exempt from the Massachusetts Public Records Law “any recordings made by a body camera, dashboard camera, or any similar device by a law enforcement officer.” This would include video capturing fatal police shootings.
Apparently Representative Provost feels the legislation is necessary to protect the privacy rights of bystanders. But given that most police body camera footage is captured on public streets, this begs the question “what privacy rights”? If you happen to be on a public street, you are in the public eye. That’s just reality.
And apparently Representative Provost does not believe that technology – which could easily pixilate or otherwise obscure the identity of a bystander – is sufficient to address her concerns.
So, in order to protect a right that doesn’t exist, and to guard against technology that isn’t flawed, Representative Provost would deny the public the right to observe the most severe exercise of public power, even if the exercise of that power results in a citizen’s death.
The public needs to see how police interact with the public. And the public’s ability to see those interactions is a check on abuses of power. The notion that all of that will be put off limits to protect some ephemeral right to privacy is well, stupid.