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Bill in Utah legislature aims to clarify when police should turn body cameras on or off

Posted at 3:04 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 17:04:44-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill is up for debate on Utah’s Capitol Hill regarding police body cameras and privacy.

Lawmakers are discussing how such footage might be used, when it's OK to turn the cameras off, and what kinds of footage should be shared with media.

Rep. Dan McCay, R-District 41, said after a few years as a mainline piece of police equipment, some questions remain about how body cameras are used.

“It’s the things that occur in people's private residences that cause the most concern,” McCay said.

He wants to clarify how, when and where the cameras can be used, and when they should be deactivated.

“Before state statute, there's a minimum standard that if a camera is activated on a police encounter, that it stay activated, and not be turned on and off—and I think that's good for transparency throughout the process,” McCay said.

He and most folks in law enforcement say they welcome body cam footage being shared with the media, especially when it comes to critical incidents, like officer involved shootings and violent arrests.

But they add there should be some leeway allowing officers to deactivate the camera in certain situations, especially when responding to nonviolent incident.

“But just know that when we go into somebody's home, in the most private side of their lives, even on a burglary report, do you really want us video taping and having that play on the six o'clock news?,” said Chief Tom Ross of the Bountiful Police Department. “How that house looked and how it’s laid out, the damage that was done, people are very concerned about that."

It’s the type of conversation McCay said he’d hoped for.

“And there's a lot for the public to pay attention to on this issue because technology will be developing over time,” he said.

The allotted time for those discussions ran out Wednesday, but lawmakers hope to pick this all up again on Friday. Click here for the full text of McCay's proposal, HB0300.