Body Worn Camera Laws
Keep reading (in blue below)to learn how to fill out the request forms, included are sample forms and a blank for so you to can get the BODY CAM FOOTAGE your need to defend your liberties
to learn more about body cam laws in your state click here
In 2018, the California Legislature passed SB1421, The Right To Know Act, which gives the public the right to see certain records relating to police misconduct and serious uses of force. You can now request these records under the Public Records Act (“PRA”) — a law that gives the public the right to see the non-confidential documents of our state and local government agencies.
The ACLU of Southern California, along with other organizations, is in the process of requesting and publishing the records for all incidents that have now been made public from the 400+ law enforcement agencies within California. In the meantime, if you have a specific incident or officer that you would more information on, you can file your own Public Records Act request.
What type of records can I now get access to?
SB 1421 gives the public the right to access three categories of records related to investigation and discipline of peace officers:
- Records related to any incident where a law enforcement officer fired a gun at a person (regardless of whether someone was hit), or used force that resulted in serious injury or death. You can get these records whether the department found the officer acted properly or not.1
- Records related to incidents where the agency found that an officer committed sexual assault against a member of the public—which includes attempts to coerce sex or proposition sex while on duty.2
- Records related to incidents where the agency found that an officer engaged in dishonesty in the investigation, reporting, or prosecution of crime or police misconduct. This kind of dishonesty could include filing a false report, testifying untruthfully, or planting evidence.3
You are entitled to any documents still in an agency’s possession, no matter how old they are.
What type of records do I still not have access to?
The only records of police misconduct that you can access are those that fall under the three categories listed above:
- serious uses of force
- sexual assault
- and dishonesty related to investigations
Records of other types of police misconduct are still secret. Also, while you can access the records of investigation for serious uses of force regardless of whether the agency found that the use of force was wrong, for allegations of sexual assault and job-related dishonesty, you can only access those records if the agency determined that the officer was guilty of misconduct in violation of policy, and the time to appeal that determination has passed.4
In addition, the agency has the right to redact or withhold certain confidential information, like the names of witnesses, or the home address of the officer involved.5
What type of documents will the agency produce?
The term “record” should include all documents related to the incident, including any reports created by the agency, the records of its investigations, photographic and video evidence, and the agency’s disciplinary decisions.6 If you are only interested in certain types of records—like a disciplinary decision or an autopsy report — you can request the specific type of record you want, and that may actually help you get a response to your request more quickly. Agencies also have an obligation to work with you to identify the documents that are responsive to your request.7
How do I submit a request for information?
To submit a request send the request via mail, fax, or email to the agency. Some agencies list specific departments or people whose job it is to respond to PRA requests, so check their websites or call them for further info. Always keep a copy of your request so that you can show what you submitted and when.
Templates for Sample Requests
Incident Based Request: Use this template if you want records related to a particular incident, like the investigative record for a specific police shooting, an arrest where you believe an officer may have been found to have filed a false report, or to find out whether complaint that an officer committed sexual assault was sustained.
Download Word document | Download PDF
Officer Based Request: Use this template if you want to find any public records of misconduct related to a particular officer or if he or she has been involved in past serious uses of force.
Download Word document | Download PDF
The First Amendment Coalition also has some useful information to help explain the PRA process.
Does it cost money to make a request?
An agency is only allowed to charge for the “direct costs” of duplicating the records, or the cost to create certain documents if you are asking it to create a document — like a list — that it does not already have.8 You should always ask the agency to waive costs in your initial request, but they are not required to do so. You also have the option to inspect the records by looking at them at the agency during its regular business hours, which you can do for free. You can always inspect documents for free, and then request copying only of those that you want.
Can the agency ask me to pay for the time it takes them to locate files or redact audio or video?
No. The Public Records Act allows agencies only the charge for the “direct costs of duplication, or a statutory fee if appliable.”9 That means that agencies can charge for the costs of paper and ink, or for the disks or drives on which they provide data, but cannot charge for the time their staff spend finding records, making copies or even redacting documents. Despite this, for several years, police agencies still tried to charge requestors an hourly rate, often amounting to thousands of dollars, for the time their staff spent editing body camera video to redact confidential information, arguing that editing video was more like programming a computer to extract data (something they are allowed to charge for) than it was like redacting a document.
However, on May 28, 2020, the California Supreme Court in National Lawyers Guild v. City of Hayward (a case brought by the ACLU of Northern California) rejected this argument10 and held that the Public Records Act does not allow police departments to charge requestors of police body camera footage for the staff time required to locate that footage and edit it to redact audio & video to remove private information.
If an agency has tried to charge you for the time required to make redactions in audio or video, please see our model follow-up letters notifying them of the Hayward decision and informing them such charges are unlawful.
When should I expect a response?
The law requires that an agency respond to any Public Record Act request in 10 days, acknowledging the request, giving a timeline for a full response and informing the requestor if they are claiming any exemptions.11 An agency can ask for a 14-day extension to respond to the request. The more extensive the request, or if it may require a lot of redactions to keep certain information confidential, the longer it may take to respond. While agencies are supposed to respond promptly, many agencies often take a long time. If you haven’t heard from them, follow-up reminding them that you are still awaiting a response, and document every contact with the agency.
Also, if you are seeking information about a relatively-recent serious use of force, an agency has the right — but is not required — to temporarily withhold the relevant documents if there is an ongoing criminal or administrative investigation that could be harmed by the release of these documents.12 How long the agency can withhold depends on whether investigation is criminal or just administrative, but in most cases it cannot withhold longer than 18 months after the incident occurred. If criminal charges are filed, the material can be withheld until the criminal case has ended.13
What do I do if the law enforcement agency does not respond?
Every agency is required by law to respond and produce relevant, non-confidential documents that they do not otherwise have the right to withhold. If they have records that they need to disclose and do not, they are in violation of the law. You should first follow-up with the agency in writing and continue to request the documents. If they still do not respond, you can enforce your right to this information by bringing a lawsuit in Superior Court. If you win your challenge the agency can be required to pay your attorneys’ fees.14 So, you may be able to find a lawyer to represent you on contingency, who will get paid only if you collect the fees from your lawsuit.
1. Cal. Penal Code §832.7(b)(1)(A)(i)-(ii).
2. Cal. Penal Code §832.7(b)(1)(B)(i)-(ii).
3. Cal. Penal Code §832.7(b)(1)(C).
4. Cal. Penal Code §832.7(b)(8); 832.8(b).
5. Cal. Penal Code §832.7(b)(5)-(6).
6. See Cal. Penal Code §832.7(b)(2) for the full list of example documents that you can access under this law.
7. Cal. Gov’t Code §6253.1(a).
8. Cal. Gov’t Code §6253.9(a)(2), (b).
9. Gov’t Code § 6253(d).
10. No. S252445, __ P.3d. ___ (May 28, 2020)
11. Cal. Gov’t Code §6253(c).
12. Cal. Gov’t Code §832.7(b)(7).
13. Cal. Gov’t Code §832.7(b)(7)(B).
14. Cal. Gov’t Code §6259(d).
cited from https://www.aclusocal.org/en/know-your-rights/access-ca-police-records
Body-Worn Camera Laws
to learn more about body cam laws in your state click here
California Body-Worn Camera Laws in order they were enacted
California (AB 69) (2015) requires police departments to consider certain best practices when developing rules for downloading and storing body-worn camera data. Practices to consider include: establishing protocols and temporal standards for downloading data, developing measures to prevent misuse or tampering of the data, categorizing the nature of incidents at the time of download and stating the length of time the data must be stored. The guidelines recommend storing data from “non-evidentiary incidents” for 60 days and a minimum of two years in situations where force is used, an arrest is made, or where a complaint has been made against an officer or agency. Storage procedures should ensure evidentiary chains of custody are preserved, records of access and deletion of data are retained permanently and identify where body camera data should be stored. It also requires certain elements to be considered if third-party data storage vendors are used. In addition, the law requires police departments to retain ownership of body cameras, which shall not be accessed or released for any unauthorized purpose, and are explicitly prohibited from being uploaded onto public and social media Internet Web sites.
California (AB 93) (2015) appropriates $10 million to the Board of State and Community Corrections to administer grants that strengthen police-community relations, including grants to address any one time body-worn camera program costs.
California (SB 424) (2015) provides that provisions prohibiting eavesdropping and recording or intercepting certain communications do not prohibit officers from using or operating body-worn cameras.
California (SB 85) (2015) requires the California Highway Patrol, on or before Jan. 1, 2016, to develop a plan for implementing a body-worn camera pilot program. The pilot program shall explore: which officers should be assigned to wear a body camera and the circumstances under which the cameras should be worn, the minimum specifications for body-worn cameras, the practicality of an officer using a privately owned body camera, the best locations on the officer’s body where the camera should be worn, best practices for officers to notify members of the public that they are being recorded, who should retain body camera data and how they should do it, best practices for officer review of recorded body-worn camera data and body-worn camera data’s use for training.
California (AB 1953) (2016) requires police departments that are establishing body camera policies and procedures to consider enumerated best practices. Best practices include (1) designating a person responsible for downloading the recorded data from the body-worn camera. (If the storage system does not have automatic downloading capability, the officer’s supervisor should take immediate physical custody of the camera and be responsible for downloading the data in the case of an incident involving the use of force by an officer, an officer-involved shooting, or other serious incident.) (2) Establishing procedures for when data should be downloaded and how it should be tagged and categorized. (3) Establish specific measures to prevent data tampering, deleting, and copying, including prohibiting the unauthorized use, duplication, or distribution of body-worn camera data. (4) Specifically state the length of time that recorded data is to be stored. Non-evidentiary data should be retained for a minimum of 60 days, after which it may be erased, destroyed, or recycled. An agency may keep data for more than 60 days to have it available in case of a civilian complaint and to preserve transparency. Body camera data should be kept for two years if: it involves use of force by a peace officer or an officer-involved shooting, the recording is of an incident that leads to the detention or arrest of an individual; or the recording is relevant to a formal or informal complaint against a law enforcement officer or a law enforcement agency. If evidence that may be relevant to a criminal prosecution is obtained from a recording made by a body-worn camera under this section, the law enforcement agency should retain the recording for any time relevant to a criminal prosecution. (5) Records or logs of access and deletion of data from body-worn cameras should be retained permanently. (6) Specify where the body-worn camera data will be stored. (7) If using a third-party vendor to manage the data storage system, consider using a reputable third-party vendor. Do this by entering into contracts that govern the vendor relationship and protect the agency’s data, using a system that prevents data tampering and unauthorized access and has a reliable method for automatically backing up data for storage.
Requires that all body-worn camera data be the property of a law enforcement agency. Data cannot be used for personal use and prohibits data from being uploaded onto public and social media internet websites. Sanctions must be included for violations. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to limit the public’s right to access recorded data under the California Public Records Act.
California (AB 459) (2017) specifies that the California Public Records Act does not require disclosure of a video or audio recording that was created during the commission or investigation of the crime of rape, incest, sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse that depicts the face, intimate body part, or voice of a victim of the incident depicted in the recording. The law also requires a law enforcement agency to justify withholding such a video or audio recording by demonstrating that the public interest served by not disclosing the recording clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the recording. The law authorizes a victim who is a subject of such a recording to be permitted to inspect the recording and to obtain a copy of the recording
Senate Bill No. 1421 – California Public Records Act
California Pen. Code § 832.7(b)(1)(A)-(C). These records are now available for public inspection and/or copying pursuant to the California Public Records Act (Cal. Govt. Code section 6250, et seq., or the “CPRA”).
Senate Bill No. 1421– California Public Records Act read here
California Pen. Code Section § 832.7 – Peace officer or custodial officer personnel records read here
The state of California just made it clear: Face recognition surveillance isn’t inevitable.
We can — and should — protect our communities from this dystopian technology.
Building on the ACLU-led campaign behind San Francisco’s first-of-its-kind ban on government face recognition, California this week enacted a landmark law that blocks police from using body cameras for spying on the public. The state-wide law keeps thousands of body cameras used by police officers from being transformed into roving surveillance devices that track our faces, voices, and even the unique way we walk. Importantly, the law ensures that body cameras, which were promised to communities as a tool for officer accountability, cannot be twisted into surveillance systems to be used against communities.
The rise of face and other biometric surveillance technologies gives governments an unprecedented power to track, classify, and discriminate against people based on their most personal, innate features. This risks forever altering the balance of power between the people and their government, and undermines bedrock democratic values of freedom and privacy.
The threat is no longer science fiction: right now, governments abroad are using this technology to target and oppress marginalized populations. Federal and local agencies in the United States are rushing to deploying these systems, too.
As police agencies and companies in the United States team up to rapidly and recklessly supercharge the surveillance state with face recognition, California is sending a powerful warning: We can — and will — defend our privacy and civil liberties.
California’s law is part of a larger and growing movement to prevent the spread of ubiquitous face surveillance. In May, San Francisco became the first city to prohibit the government acquisition and use of face recognition technology. Since then, Oakland and Berkeley, California, and Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts, have introduced or adopted bans of their own. And in Detroit and New York City, activists are fighting to prevent the face surveillance of Black communities, tenants, and school children.
These towns and cities are joined by legislatures in Massachusetts, Washington, New York, and Michigan that have introduced state-wide legislation strictly limiting face recognition surveillance. And in Washington D.C., members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are now considering legislation to rein in this technology and have held a series of hearings to investigate its use.
Even companies and shareholders are beginning to recognize a new responsibility to act. This summer, Axon, the country’s largest body camera supplier, announced it would ban face recognition on its products for the foreseeable future. Before that, Google announced it would press pause on a face recognition products for governments.
This impressive progress to bring face surveillance technology under democratic control is no accident. The ACLU’s Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS) effort is designed to ensure residents — through their local governments and elected officials — are empowered to decide if and how surveillance technologies are used, and to promote government transparency. We’ve brought together a coalition of organizations fighting for the rights of immigrants, Black people, the unhoused, LGBTQ people, criminal defense attorneys, Muslim-Americans, and so many more. Shareholders, AI researchers, and tech employees have also joined in. These campaigns find political power in their diversity.
We’ve exposed law enforcement’s quiet expansion of face surveillance into our communities. Our team has demonstrated how the technology’s numerous flaws can lead to wrongful arrests, use of force, and grave harm. We’ve explained how even perfectly accurate face surveillance technology would remain a grave threat to civil rights, enabling the automatic and invasive tracking of our private lives and undermining First Amendment-protected activity.
Community members are directly reaching out to their legislators to share their personal experiences of police misconduct and discriminatory surveillance. They’re explaining how face recognition — with its unprecedented ability to impose official power and control — will amplify those existing harms and further undermine trust in law enforcement. And they’re demanding their local leaders step up efforts to block this technology from entering their communities.
But as people and their policymakers make progress, companies like Amazon and Microsoft continue to seek profits from face recognition sales to governments. Amazon even pitched its face recognition product — called “Rekognition” — to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And companies like Microsoft have attempted to advance laws that they claim would protect communities, but actually entrench dangerous and discriminatory uses.
Decisions about whether the government has the immense power to identify who attends protests, political rallies, church, or simply walks down the street must be made by you and your elected leaders. They should not be made by corporate executives or by police chiefs acting alone.
Our democracy gives us the power as a society to reject surveillance that is invasive, discriminatory, and wide-reaching. We will continue to use that power to create a society free of face surveillance. We hope you’ll join us in this fight.