JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers are looking at changing the ways police collect and store the enormous amount of data that comes from relatively new technology, including video, audio and location.
Lawmakers have filed at least 10 bills, though most have not yet received a committee vote. Some lawmakers say they worry devices like body cameras and license plate scanners are indiscriminate and violate the privacy of people who have done nothing wrong. Law enforcement representatives have said they’re working to help the Legislature strike a compromise that won’t tie their hands.
The challenge to crafting these laws is anticipating how they will interact with a quickly changing technological landscape, said Sheldon Lineback, the executive director of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, which supports tighter restrictions on body camera footage. Laws change, best practices are updated and new technology becomes available, he said, so changing the legal guidelines for using cutting-edge tools shouldn’t be a problem for departments.
Most of the attention has focused on body cameras, an issue that first arose after the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, of which there is no dashcam video or audio. Some have said a body camera would have added some objective evidence in an event otherwise described through the officer’s and witnesses’ accounts.
Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed has proposed requiring police in the state’s large cities to wear body cameras, but Republicans have pushed back, saying the cameras produce a huge amount of footage and much of it depicts people in their most private and vulnerable moments.
Republicans in the House and Senate have advanced legislation that would tighten public access to body camera and dashcam footage.
Other devices have raised similar concerns. A Senate panel endorsed a measure Thursday that requires police to get a warrant to use cell site simulators, which mimic a cellphone tower and can pinpoint a cellphone’s location in real-time. When used to track a suspect’s phone, it gathers data on nearby phones as well, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Kansas City Police Department has such a device, also known as a StingRay. A department spokesman told the Kansas City Star that the agency mostly seeks a court’s permission to use it; the department did not immediately respond to message left Friday by the Associated Press.
Earlier in the week, a different Senate committee heard testimony on limiting the time police can keep data from automatic license plate readers, which collect plate numbers along with the time and location.
Republican Sen. Will Kraus has proposed requiring police departments to erase that data after 30 days or after an investigation has been completed.
“I’m not a fan of collecting data on citizens that have done nothing wrong,” Kraus said. “If it was up to me, I would ban these, but law enforcement agencies would block the bill.”
A version of Kraus’ legislation died in the House in 2014 after passing the Senate. The latest one is a “good compromise,” according to David McCracken, a lobbyist for the Police Chiefs Association.
“We’re not thrilled about it, however we understand that there needs to be a balance,” McCracken said during the hearing, after which Kraus acknowledged the challenge of regulating technology that’s already being used.
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