Groups discuss privacy issues related to body cameras

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COLUMBIA - Missouri groups are in talks about possible changes to Missouri's Sunshine Law when it comes to public access to video footage of body cameras worn by law enforcement agencies.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says police should wear body cameras more frequently but that the public and media shouldn't have unfettered access to the recordings. He sent a letter to Missouri lawmakers Tuesday urging changes should be made to Missouri's Sunshine Law because individual privacy makes the current public records laws unsuitable for widespread use of body cameras.

Dale Roberts, the Executive Director of Columbia Police Officer's Association, said he's glad the attorney general is supporting the needs of the law enforcement and the privacy of the public.

"The current interpretation of the law makes us nervous," Roberts said. "We're worried people would access those videos and use them possibly for an improper purpose."

"Missouri's Sunshine Law provides news media and entertainment producers nearly unfettered access to videos from body-worn cameras," Koster wrote. "Adoption of body-worn cameras must not lead to a new era of voyeurism and entertainment television at the expense of Missourians' privacy."

MU adjunct law professor Sandy Davidson says the news media and the public's access to body-cam footage depends on the circumstance.

"We want access to information that will give us confidence in how the police are performing their job," Davidson said. "At the same time, we want to have confidence that we have protection of our privacy in our homes."

The Missouri Press Association and the Missouri Police Chiefs Association have been in recent discussions about changing the wording to the current sunshine law, according to Missouri Press Association Attorney Jean Maneke.

"There's an issue of individual privacy in some cases," Maneke said. "In certain circumstances, for example, body-cam footage of people in their private homes is an issue because people have an expection of privacy in their own homes."

No lawmakers have yet to propose any changes to the current legislation. Maneke says the Missouri Press Association will continue discussions with the Missouri Police Chiefs Association about changes to the current language of the law.