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Is Police Body Cam Footage Public Record?

Over the past few years, more and more police departments have adopted the use of officer body cams. The devices attach to an officer's uniform and record what the officers do while on duty. However, there is no uniform law of the land when it comes to the public's right to access the footage from the body cams. Depending on the local jurisdiction, or state, different standards are used for the release of the footage. Some will only allow the footage to be released publicly as part of a criminal or civil trial (as the law requires the disclosure then), while others allow the recordings to be released on YouTube (after private and identifying information is edited out). Video for the People, Not of the People The purpose of police body cams is to engender the public's trust. The idea is essentially that officers will be less likely to not follow the rules, and will be more likely to do everything exactly by the book, if there is a video record of all their actions. These cams can also provide evidence of corrupt police practices, at least when the corrupt officers are not selectively recording with their body cams. The recordings are not just of public civil servants (police officers), but the individuals they encounter are, naturally, caught on camera too. This complicates public disclosure as private individuals have privacy rights, even when they are out in public. Those privacy rights can be violated by allowing the public unfettered access to the footage. A simple example involves a traffic stop. If an officer is not careful when handling a pulled over driver's documents, or the footage is not redacted/edited before it is released publicly, a person's driver's license number, address, height, birth date, and (alleged) weight, could all be captured by a body cam. Who's Watching? Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of police body cam footage, it would likely be impractical, or a drain on police resources, for all of it to be reviewed. Instead, generally, departments review the footage when necessary to review high profile incidents, arrests that lead to prosecutions, or sometimes when officers need help to remember what happened for their reports. Also, when complaints against officers are made by the public, or other officers, the body cam footage can be reviewed. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Police Body Cameras: What Defendants, Victims Need to Know (FindLaw Blotter) Body Cams Embraced, But Who Will Have Access to Footage? (FindLaw's California Case Law) How Does the iPhone's New 'Cop Button' Work? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Arresting Officer in Freddie Gray Case Found Not Guilty

Baltimore policeman Edward Nero, implicated in the death of Freddie Gray last year, was found not guilty of all criminal charges. Nero was tried before a judge and is the second officer of six charged to stand trial for Gray's death. But Nero is the first to resolve his case, according to Slate. A trial last year for Officer William Porter ended in a hung jury and the case will be tried again. Perhaps informed by Porter's experience, Nero opted for a bench trial, meaning this case was argued before a judge only and not a jury. It was a good choice for him, considering he was found not guilty. The State's Arguments The judge reportedly accepted Officer Nero's defense and was said to be unconvinced by the state's case throughout the five-day trial. His hesitation may have stemmed from the state's arguments, which essentially blamed Nero for his involvement in an arrest with no probable cause and called for judicial scrutiny of day-to-day policing. Prosecutors said Nero, who was on bike patrol and asked to chase Gray, should not have aided in the arrest without inquiring as to the circumstances. Nero should have asked why his fellow officers were chasing Freddy Gray, rather than just following orders and going after the fleeing suspect, the state argued. But Judge Barry Williams was not buying it. According to Slate, he "made [that] abundantly clear ... at one point asking Deputy State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe whether she was suggesting that every time there is an arrest without probable cause, it is a crime." The Defense's Arguments The defense argued that Nero had a limited role in the arrest and did not arrest or cuff Gray. Judge Williams apparently accepted this, in part based on witness testimony corroborating the claim that Nero did not contribute as much to Gray's arrest as other officers. Next Up Another officer is scheduled to stand trial next month, on June 6, and there are four more cases to resolve after that. The Baltimore Police Department issued a statement after Nero's case concluded today, saying he will remain under internal investigation and on administrative duties until all of the officers implicated in Freddie Gray's death have resolved their criminal cases. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can You Choose Not to Have a Jury Trial? (FindLaw Blotter) 4 Updates on Recent Police Shootings (FindLaw Blotter) What Are the Charges in the Freddie Gray Cases? (FindLaw Blotter) First Freddie Gray Death Case Ends in in Mistrial (FindLaw Blotter)
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First Trial in Freddie Gray Homicide Ends in Mistrial

After 16 hours of deadlocked jury deliberations, the judge finally declared a mistrial in Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter's trial in the homicide of Freddie Gray. Jurors told the judge they could not reach a verdict on any of the charges against Porter, the first of six officers to stand trial after Gray died in police custody last April. The Baltimore Sun is reporting that a new trial date for Porter will be set on Thursday morning. Homicide, but Is It Manslaughter? Six Baltimore Police officers face charges relating to Gray's homicide. Porter specifically was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. Each of the six is scheduled to be tried separately and consecutively, although it is unclear how Porter's mistrial will affect that schedule. Gray was allegedly the victim of a "rough ride," during which suspects are handcuffed but not secured to a seat in a police vehicle and then intentionally battered by a rugged and bumpy ride to the station. Gray suffered fatal injuries to his spine after being placed in police custody, and an investigation suggested his arrest may have been illegal in the first place. Deadlock in Death Case Porter's trial lasted two weeks and jury deliberations spanned three days. It was apparent to Judge Barry G. Williams that further discussion wouldn't lead to a verdict: "You clearly have been diligent," he told jurors. "You are a hung jury." Following a deadlocked jury, prosecutors have the option of a retrial on any charges on which the jury was unable to come to a verdict. And because the jury did not decide any of the charges in this case, double jeopardy doesn't apply. Prosecutors declined to comment after the mistrial ruling, citing a "gag order that pertains to all cases related to Freddie Gray." Related Resources: Mistrial Declared in Baltimore Police Officer's Trial (Reuters) Baltimore Offers Freddie Gray's Family $6.4M to Settle Civil Claims (FindLaw's Injured) 6 Police Officers Involved in Freddie Gray Homicide Indicted (FindLaw Blotter) 4 Updates on Recent Police Shootings (FindLaw Blotter)
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