Can Anyone Watch a Video Recorded on a Police Body Camera or In-Car Camera?

Liberty L. Roberts

Author: Liberty L. Roberts

POST DATE: 9.6.16
Ccha  Government

On July 1, 2016, a new Indiana law went into effect that regulates who may view audio and/or video of a law enforcement activity. While the focus has been on video captured by body cameras, the law applies equally to dash cameras, or in-car cameras. So, who gets to see the video under the new law?

The new law provides different levels of access to two classes or groups of people: “Requestors” and “All Persons.” Persons who are considered “Requestors” under the statute have more rights than members of the general public.

The law considers a “Requestor” to be:

  1. A person depicted in a recording, or if the person is deceased or incapacitated, the person’s relative or representative.
  2. An owner or occupant of real property depicted in a recording.
  3. A crime victim, if the depicted events are relevant to the crime.
  4. A person who suffers a loss due to personal injury or property damage, if the depicted events are relevant to the person’s loss.

A “Requestor” is entitled to view any video at least twice. The person must be permitted to view the recording with his or her attorney present. However, the recording may not be copied during the viewing session and the police department may obscure information related to the identification of undercover officers and confidential informants who are depicted in the recording.

In order to view the recording, the “Requestor” must submit a written request to the police department. The request must provide the following information about the recording he or she wants to view:

  1. the date and approximate time of the law enforcement activity;
  2. the specific location where the law enforcement activity occurred; and
  3. the name of at least one individual, other than a law enforcement officer, who was directly involved in the law enforcement activity.

A person who does not fit the definition of “Requester” but who wants to view a recording, must submit a written request with particular information identifying the recording (as outlined above). If a non-Requestor submits a request, the person may view a recording unless the police department can demonstrate that release of the recording would:

  1. Pose a significant risk of harm to a person or the public;
  2. Interfere with a person’s ability to get a fair trial;
  3. Affect an ongoing investigation; or
  4. Not serve the public interest.

If a recording is deemed appropriate for viewing, the police department must block or redact general confidential information that would normally be redacted in a public records request, such as social security numbers. Additionally, any depictions of death or dead bodies, acts of severe violence, serious bodily injury, nudity, individuals reasonably believed to be less than 18 years of age, personal medical information, and victims or witnesses, must be blocked or redacted from a recording before it is shown to a person requesting to view the video. Further, a police department may obscure undercover agents and confidential informants.

The new law requires local public agencies to retain recordings for 190 days after the date of the recording. State public agencies are required to retain recordings for at least 280 days from the date of the recording. Notwithstanding those timeframes, the recording must be retained for a period of two years if (1) a “requestor” asks that it be retained; or (2) a complaint has been filed with the agency regarding a law enforcement activity depicted in the recording. Moreover, if the recording is used in a criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding, it must be retained until final disposition of all appeals and order from the court.

The police department may agree to provide a copy of a recording. The statute provides that a police department may charge up to $150 for a copy of any recording. 

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