- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Lawmakers should consider changes to the Maryland Public Information Act to adjust for privacy concerns raised by police body cameras, a state commission decided to recommend Tuesday.

Commissioners decided that video and audio footage should be released as required by the state’s public information act. However, after debate about how that could infringe on privacy or victims’ rights, they decided to recommend state lawmakers consider next year some changes to the law to accommodate the relatively new technology.

“What we’re dealing with here is technology that’s moving faster than law, and law has to sometimes catch up with technology,” said Frederic Smalkin, a former federal judge who is chairman of the 22-member commission tasked with recommending statewide best practices for police body cameras.

David Rocah, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, opposed the recommendation.

“I am concerned about the prospect of trying to create categorical exemptions with respect to body-worn camera footage, because I think every proposal that I have heard from anywhere in the country, in my view, significantly undermines the entire purpose of having body-worn cameras in the first place,” Rocah said.

The panel voted on a wide variety of recommendations for a statewide policy guiding the use of body cameras throughout a long day of debate over matters such as when police should turn on body cameras, when they are to be turned off and how or when equipment should be tested.

The commission postponed making decisions related to storage of recordings.

The panel’s recommendations, which are not binding, will be submitted to state lawmakers and the Maryland Police Training Commission by Oct. 1. The MPTC is tasked with putting regulations together by Jan. 1.

The use of police body cameras won’t be mandatory in Maryland. Only about 20 police departments in the state use them now, and many of them are small departments.

Lawmakers passed legislation to create the commission to work on a statewide body camera policy. The recommendations will go through the state’s regulatory process, which will include reviews and opportunities for public comment.


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