PHOENIX (AP) - Legislation to equip state troopers with body-worn cameras has been modified to prohibit the Arizona Department of Public Safety from releasing video unless it “involves a criminal act.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday unanimously advanced the amended bill to the Senate floor for a final vote, The Arizona Republic reported. It passed the House last month.
The measure would set aside $1.5 million from the state general fund each year from 2022 through 2026 to buy and equip troopers with cameras. DPS is the largest law enforcement agency in Arizona that does not use body cameras.
Senate Appropriations Committee chairman David Gowan said he added the amendment to protect people’s privacy, referring to it as a “civil liberties situation.”
Gowan, a Republican, assured lawmakers that video wouldn’t be deleted by DPS until cases were resolved and it would be made available to the courts.
Several lawmakers, however, expressed concern about the amendment limiting public transparency.
“I think there might be some folks who think that there are some civil matters that could be disputed or affirmed with the film being made available,” Democratic state Sen. Lela Alston said. “It may not be a criminal thing, but it could be a civil thing, and I think that’s important enough that we should not have this amendment.”
Democratic state Sen. Lisa Otondo said she was curious whether police thought the amendment was transparent. She noted that footage could go both ways in protecting officers and residents.
DPS has said it does not comment on pending legislation.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Republican state Rep. Kevin Payne, told The Arizona Republic that while he understands Gowan’s desire to “protect individual rights,” further discussion with other lawmakers and law enforcement is essential to move forward.
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