Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Plan to Shield Body Camera Footage from Public Faces Scrutiny

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The chairman of the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee said Wednesday that he would not back a proposal to withhold video recorded by police body cameras from the public, adding a stumbling block to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s plan to outfit all patrol officers by the end of the year. 

Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), the committee chairman, said he would not support Bowser’s plan — a day before the council’s hearing on the mayor’s proposal. Doing so, McDuffie said, would undermine the goal of increasing transparency and promoting police accountability if officers never have to fear that the video will be seen.

McDuffie controls the portion of Bowser’s budget that includes the body-camera proposal. He said he would draft his own legislation on video disclosure and take that to the council following testimony Thursday from national experts and D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.

The opposition from McDuffie, a rising member of the council who has largely supported the mayor in her early months, presents a new challenge for Bowser (D) on an issue sensitive to the police rank and file. It’s also an arena where Bowser has set a high bar, pledging in her first citywide address this year to open a new era of government transparency and accountability.

In a statement Wednesday, McDuffie, a former civil rights attorney with the Justice Department, said that although he is sensitive to concerns about intrusions on privacy that could result from releasing police footage, he believes “there must also be a way to access the appropriately-redacted footage.”

Bowser spokesman Michael Czin said the mayor’s office was prepared to work with the council to find a compromise.

“Everyone agrees that body-worn cameras will increase transparency and accountability, making our communities safer. We look forward to having a productive conversation with the Council on the best way to implement body-worn cameras in the District,” he said in an e-mail.

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Source: Washington Post | Aaron C. Davis

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