Archive for the 'Laws' Category

Police Body Cam Laws Around the Country Part 2: Georgia to Indiana

Understanding the body cam laws of the state you live in is crucially important–the obligations of the officers around you and your rights to any footage taken. As we’ve discussed earlier, a lot of this type of footage can be made available though requests under state and federal public records laws. Each state has a different approach and many have–among other laws–limited or even required this sort of disclosure in certain situations.

As we’ve seen in the shooting of Stephon Clark, the required release body cam footage such as the policy of the Sacramento Police Department can make a big difference in public transparency. However, we’ve also seen that holes in those policies such as allowing officers to mute their cameras (as the officers did after shooting Stephon Clark) can raise serious questions about police conduct.

As we discussed in the last article, we’re going to go through the laws of each state alphabetically to help you learn where your state is on the issue. Several states have no laws at all or are in very early stages in creating these laws. These states are listed in the previous article and will not be discussed here.

If you don’t see your state on the list, it is one of these states. Other than that, we’ve already covered the states up to Florida. Go check out the previous article if your state falls into those already covered.

For today, we’ll be discussing Georgia to Indiana. In reading these, remember that individual department policies and county regulations such as Sacramento’s can change these rules further–it’s always worth looking into things like this to know your rights.

body cam 2Georgia

Georgia law focuses primarily, as discussed above, on when the public can have access to body camera recordings. The law leaves a situation where the recordings are generally accessible by public request, but the exemptions cover an enormous number of situations so as to substantially limit this public access.

Any recording taken in a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy–such as the subject of a recording’s home–are exempt from public records rules. They can usually be accessed by the subject of a recording, the parents of a minor in a recording, or anybody subject to criminal or civil action relevant to the video.

The law also makes some provisions covering how police officers handle recording and the footage it creates. First, it creates an exception to usual eavesdropping laws for body cam recordings made as part of official duties.

It also requires officers to maintain body cam records for at least 180 days–a requirement increased to 30 months if the video shows an accident, detainment, arrest, or use of force or if it is part of a criminal investigation or pending litigation. There is explicitly no requirement (or real limitation) on redaction of recordings under state law–any requirements would instead be at a department level.


As of 2015, Illinois has required independent standards from their Board of Police Training and Standards on the use of body cams. These rules include that cameras need to be equipped before any substantial event and capable of recoding at least 10 hours. Cameras must be on always, if circumstances prevent a camera from being turned on it must be turned on as soon as possible.

There are a few exceptions to this last rule, such as when the victim asks an officer to turn off the camera, a witness won’t testify on camera, or when an officer is speaking to a confidential informant. Even then, an officer can keep the camera on in extreme circumstances so long as they explain why they’re not turning off their camera.

Officers also can turn off their cameras during community caretaking functions. They are required to give notice when they are recording if there’s any expectation of privacy. This notice must be heard in the recording itself unless extreme circumstances prevent it, even then the notice must come as soon as possible.

Officers must ensure their cameras are in working order and immediately notify superiors of any issues then fix them. The departments themselves need to track and report information on several statistics on body cam usage as well as train officers in the use of the body cams.

Illinois also has in-depth state level laws regarding handling of body cameras and recordings.  Any labeling, duplication, or redaction of recordings must be handled by people specifically designated for the task.

Officers, and their supervisors, can only access the data to complete incident reports and only if that review is documented. The video is maintained for 90 days unless it documents a serious incident in which case it is kept for two years. If there is an ongoing investigation or case, it can only be deleted after the case reaches its end.

The law also, a bit strangely, prevents a recording from being used in disciplining an officer unless there is a complain leveled against that officer, there is a use of force, or the video is used to corroborate other evidence of misconduct. Why the recorded actions of an officer aren’t generally available to punish an officer for misconduct is unclear.

All body camera footage is exempted from the usual Freedom of Information Act public records requests. There is an exception if the data is flagged as part of a complaint or if the video shows a discharged firearm, use of force, an arrest or detention, death or bodily harm, or even if the victim or witnesses give permissions for the release of the video.


Indiana laws surrounding body cams focus almost entirely on additional requirements placed on the public before they can access body cam recording data pursuant to the state’s open records law. Requests for such information must be in writing and must specify the date, location and approximate time of incident, and the name of at least one person, other than a law enforcement officer, who was directly involved in the law enforcement activity.

Agencies are required to allow these “requestors” to view the recordings in question at least two times–not the most useful requirement to review a potentially quite long video but still something. Requestors isn’t just anybody requesting the data however, it includes subjects of the recordings, owners of real property depicted in a recording, or victims of person or property damage.

Most notably, there is an additional element that is almost entirely absent in other laws related to body cameras around the nation, there are actual penalties for an agency’s failure to comply. Requestors can get attorney’s fees, court fee, and other expenses refunded if they are successful in a court action to see their footage.

In general, public agencies must allow anybody to inspect a copy of a recording unless they can demonstrate that this release would pose a significant risk of harm to a person or the public, interfere with a person’s ability to get a fair trial, affect an ongoing investigation or would not serve the public interest. There is a specific exception for recordings showing airport security unless there is approval from airport security officers.

All recordings must be maintained, unaltered and unobscured, for at least 280 days by state agencies and for 190 days by local departments. If there is a request to hold it longer from a “requestor” or a complaint is filed related to the incident the footage is held for at least two years. However, footage may generally be retained for any length of time. Footage that is part of a court case is kept until that case is finished.

There are restrictions on copying footage, but the fee to police for such actions is capped at $150. Officers are also limited in what they can obscure in footage before it is released.

Keep on The Look Out for More!

If you haven’t seen your state in the articles thus far, you’re sure to see it soon! We’re going to go through all 50 states laws. We’ll be starting the next article with Kansas. Keep an eye out, and know your rights.

Jonathan Lurie is a Founding Partner of The Law Offices of Lurie and Ferri (Contact Info). He primarily handles business law, employment law, and intellectual property issues, but works with all types of civil matters. He is a Vice-Chair of the Sports and Entertainment Interest Group of the California Intellectual Property Section and has won awards for his knowledge of intellectual property, start-up business issues, and California civil procedure. 

Police Body Cam Laws Around the Country Part 1: Arkansas to Florida

Individual camera policies can change from department to department. However, most of states have laws on how police body cameras, and their footage, is handled. If it weren’t for the release of footage in the Stephon Clark shooting recently, we may have a much different story of what occurred that day.

However, the availability of that footage has allowed a completely honest conversation about a black man shot in his grandmother’s backyard after a rose gold cell phone was apparently mistaken for a gun in the dark.

In the last few years, especially after the introduction of the Body Worn Camera Pilot Implementation Program by former-President Obama in 2014, there has been quite a bit of legislation on the rules regarding body cams in any given state.

It’s crucial that people know where their state is on these programs. If a loved one is involved in an incident with the police, you may be able to access the recording of that incident–the department in question may even be required to distribute that recording as the Sacramento department was in Stephon Clark’s case.

body cam_1We’ve already discussed how Sacramento’s body cam policies came into play in the shooting of Stephon Clark. However, we’ve yet to discuss how those types of policies may apply more directly to you. With that in mind, let’s look at the state by state laws on body cams.

We’ll go alphabetically through each state that has laws on body cams so you can easily find a brief summary of the laws in your own state. By necessity, this is going to be a lot of information, it may be best to just scroll down to the states that apply to you and give it a read.

There are several states–such as New York—that have no rules on body cam usage, requiring them or regulating them, on a state level. If you don’t find your state in the list, you live in a state where this is the case.

There are also a few states which have passed laws requiring body cam policies be put together in the future–Arizona, Vermont, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Delaware, Colorado, and South Carolina. Many of these states have posted online recommendations, but no other laws on the books. It is a good bet that many department policies are close to mirroring these recommendations.

However, you should look to your local department policies if you live in one of these states. Some, such as New Jersey, have appropriated funds for a body cam program but haven’t gone much further. We won’t be discussing these today either, but if you live in one of these states it’s worth knowing whether there will be new rules soon. With all this being said, let’s get started with the laws! There’s a lot to cover here, so today will go over Arkansas to Florida.

Arkansas’s Body Cam Law

Arkansas body cam laws at this point focus primarily on when the public can view body cam records through methods such as a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request–a common means for the public to gain access to government records.

Under Arkansas law, any records that show the death of a law enforcement officer are exempt from disclosure in all their forms–including body cam footage. The only way to get these records is a court order after a showing of good cause to a judge. These records are still available through the usual discovery means in a trial.

California’s Body Cam Law

California has quite a bit of law on how body cameras for police are handled. As of 2015, they’ve been requiring each individual police department and highway patrol to put together best practices and rules for using body cams and storing their data. The laws place special emphasis on a requirement all information be kept for 60 days and recordings with potential evidentiary value be kept at least two years. All the usual evidentiary chain rules apply to storing body cam footage. California law also forbids unauthorized access to this data and, for some reason, uploading the footage to social media.

In 2016, they added some additional rules for these body cam policies including designating somebody specifically responsible for downloading and storing recorded data, categorizing data for easy access, creating safeguards against tampering or deletion, and even more details on where and how long the data is to be stored.

Just last year, California some additional steps to limit the release of body cam videos under the California analog to FOIA–the California Public Records Act. However, they only did this in situations where a recording–video or audio–portrays 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. But, law enforcement is still required to justify withholding the recording and can’t prevent the video from being viewed by the victim in the video if they request it.

Connecticut’s Body Cam Law

Connecticut, much like California, start putting together body cam requirements in 2015 after the federal grants were offered the year prior–their original law required standards and policies in place for the use of body cams within the state and, as of July 1, 2016, required all police officers to wear the cameras while interacting with the public. The camera’s must be worn on the outermost garment on the upper half of an officer’s torso.

However, this original law went much further than most other similar laws at the time. Law officers are forbidden from editing, erasing, copying, sharing, deleting, altering or distributing without authorization any footage taken by the body cam. They are, however, allowed to review the footage in preparing their reports or preparing to give testimony in a case. If the review is for testimony, they must do it in the presence of an attorney or union representative.

The body cams also are not allowed to be used when speaking with undercover officers or informants, on break, during medical or psych evaluations unless there is crime occurring in a hospital or similar setting. The laws also public disclosure of scenes with domestic or sexual abuse, homicide, suicide, or death by accident if it would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. This policy was partially amended in 2016 to bar FOIA requests of recordings unreasonably invading the privacy of a minor without the permission of that minor’s guardians.

The body cams must have all damage and malfunctions swiftly reported and must be frequently inspected for functionality.

Even more recently, Connecticut has designated a task force to overhaul their body cam laws and policies. This means that there likely be substantial updates to these laws either this year or next year.

Florida’s Body Cam Law

Just like the last two, Florida put its first laws together in 2015. However, it’s original rules were focused almost entirely on when the recordings would be available under their state open records laws. Body cam footage in Florida can’t be released under public records rules if it depicts the inside of a person’s residence, a medical facility, or any area most people would consider private–such as a dressing room. In 2016, an additional exemption was created for the killing of a person or on duty law officer.

The flip side to the initial law made in 2015 was setting standards for when police must release body cam footage–or more specifically who they must share it with. For instance, they are required to share recordings with the subjects of the recordings. Courts are given some direction as to when to allow the release of body cam footage, specifically looking at how sensitive or personal the recording is and considering the privacy interests of the subject of the video.

Later laws acquired funds for widespread use of the cameras and training. They also required each individual law enforcement agency to supplement the laws in place with use polices.

Most recently, Florida has expanded officer access to the videos from body cams. Officers are now allowed to review recorded footage before writing a report or providing a statement regarding recorded events. They are not required to be supervised during this review.

More Analysis of State Body Cam Laws to Come

As you can see, there’s a lot to cover given how many states have these sorts of laws. That being said, it’s worth knowing the responsibilities and obligations of the police as well as your own rights. Keep an eye out for the next set of states, we’ll be starting with Georgia.

Jonathan Lurie is a Founding Partner of The Law Offices of Lurie and Ferri (Contact Info). He primarily handles business law, employment law, and intellectual property issues, but works with all types of civil matters. He is a Vice-Chair of the Sports and Entertainment Interest Group of the California Intellectual Property Section and has won awards for his knowledge of intellectual property, start-up business issues, and California civil procedure. 

Was the Former FBI Deputy Director McCabe Legally Terminated?

FBI Deputy Director McCabe announced his resignation on January 29, 2018. He went on paid leave until March 18, when he would officially retire. Attorney General Sessions terminated McCabe on March 16, thereby removing McCabe’s pension.

Sessions said he was following the recommendation of the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which claimed “Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions.” The report that Sessions cited has not been publicly released.

There are several factors that cloud McCabe’s termination. First, Mr. Trump has constantly taunted McCabe on Twitter, before his resignation and after his termination. McCabe has solid evidence if he wants to sue and argue that his termination was the result of a personal grudge instead of an objective investigation.

Second, McCabe was a witness who observed James Comey documenting his meetings with Mr. Trump. The Special Counsel could prosecute McCabe’s termination as witness tampering and intimidation. Finally, McCabe had approved an investigation into Jeff Sessions for perjury when he testified to Congress last year. If true, McCabe’s termination could be retaliation by the Attorney General.

mccabeEmployment Law Would Support McCabe’s Claims

Employment in the United States is usually at-will. This means that either employer or the employee can end the relationship at any time for any reason. The exception is if the employer terminates the employee for an illegal reason, such as a breach of contract or racial discrimination.

However, many government positions, especially positions that directly report to elected offices, do not serve at-will. Government positions are protected to ensure that political bias does not affect operations of government that should be non-partisan, such as military defense or criminal investigations. They can only be terminated for good cause.

Good cause” is essentially the opposite of at-will employment. At-will employment means that an employee can be fired for any reason except for an illegal reason. Good cause means the employer can only terminate the employee if the employer has a legal reason for doing so.

The Justice Department would claim that it had good cause for terminating McCabe – leaking classified information to the media and then denying it while under oath. However, McCabe is denying the allegations completely. Since no one has seen the report by the Office of Professional Responsibility, Sessions may be on thin ice with this decision. If McCabe sues and he is right, then McCabe’s termination would be invalidated and his pension restored.

McCabe would most likely argue that the allegations against him were a pretext. A pretext is a false reason given to fire an employee instead of the actual reason, because the actual justification is illegal.

McCabe could argue in court that he was really fired for all the reasons mentioned above: a President’s personal grudge against him, an attempt at witness tampering, and retaliation by an Attorney General who was afraid of the investigation that his target had authorized against him. Given that there was only two days left before McCabe’s resignation, the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate McCabe is legally very risky.

What Do Employees Get If They Win Their Lawsuit?

Although McCabe is a very high profile case, he is not unusual. According to the EEOC, 41,097 wrongful termination cases based on retaliation were filed in 2017. The average settlement is about $40,000, with 10% of settlements resulting in a million dollars for the employee. About 67% of wrongful termination trials in court are won by the employee.

Notably, very few cases result in the employee returning to work. First, employees are required to mitigate damages – they cannot do nothing and then demand back pay when they could have found another job. Second, a wrongful termination often means bad blood for both sides. Few people want the drama and potential hostility that may come after a lawsuit.

Finally, many states may require the employee to choose between a large settlement and returning to the original job. Most employers would replace the terminated employee right away. It would be unjust to fire the replacement just so that that wrongful terminated employee could return.

Uber Stops Self-Driving Cars After a Pedestrian is Killed

Uber has pumped the brakes on its self-driving cars program. 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was killed by a self-driving Uber car on March 18. Dash cam footage shows that Herzberg was looking at the other side of the road as she was riding her bicycle when the car hit her.

The car was going 40 mph prior to the accident and did not slow down when it hit her. The Uber safety driver showed no signs of impairment and the weather was clear and dry. Neither the car nor the safety person saw her until she was struck.

In response, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey suspended Uber’s right to run self-driving cars in Arizona (the company had announced it would suspend its program prior to the announcement).  The suspension was a 180 degree turn on Governor Ducey’s part. After taking office in 2015, Ducey had welcomed high tech companies seeking to test autonomous cars, especially Uber.

Ducey issued executive orders compelling state officials not to enforce taxi licensing rules for self-driving cars. Ducey permitted Uber to test its vehicles in Arizona as long as there was a human driver ready to assume control should there be a need to. Ducey also gave Uber his blessing to operate fully driverless cars on university campuses in the state.

Ducey’s administration claims that his aggressive pursuit of Uber was part of the governor’s plan to poach high-tech companies from California. The Golden State has lead the country in high tech for the 21st century, but states across the country have been courting its companies with offers of tax breaks and other incentives.

Arizona’s pitch to Uber and other companies looking to test self-driving cars was less regulations to interfere with their operations. This was a sharp contrast with California, which had recently voted to impose additional restrictions on driverless cars.

uberUber argues that while the accident was tragic, it is all in pursuit of science. Safety and efficiency requires experimentation and there may be accidents along the way. However, emails obtained by the Guardian between Uber and Governor Ducey indicates that there may be more to the relationship than Ducey’s desire for a business-friendly environment.

Emails show that Uber offered Ducey shirts and office space in San Francisco as the Governor spearheaded deregulation in Arizona. Although Uber has already settled with Herzberg’s estate, the emails renew a new legal debate: who is liable for Ms. Herzberg’s wrongful death?

Is There Potential Liability for Uber and the State?

If Herzberg’s estate wants to pursue a lawsuit, there are two realistic claims: the safety driver in the car or Uber itself. Any claims against the state of Arizona and Governor Ducey would be protected by sovereign immunity. If Governor Ducey did anything illegal, it would be prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s office instead of a private citizen.

Although self-driving car cases are new, the case here is still analogous to a normal accident involving an employer licensed vehicle. Suppose that a UPS or FedEx driver hits a vehicle. UPS and FedEx would be vicariously liable for the injury it caused. Although the Uber vehicle was on auto-pilot, there was a human safety person behind there.

Video footage clearly shows the person was not paying attention when the accident occurred. Given that the person’s job was to take over in the event of an accident, the safety person had clearly failed his or her standard of care. Since the person was an Uber representative, Uber would be responsible for the safety person’s negligence.

Even without the vicarious liability of a careless employee, Uber would still be liable. Self-driving vehicle may be new, but defective product cases are not. If the auto-driving car was supposed to detect pedestrians and failed to do so, then the car, the product, was defective.

The main complication is that the users of the product usually bring a defective product suit, not the victims of it. This should not stop a defective product claim though, as there are plenty of lawsuits involving people injured by products that they didn’t purchase themselves.

One potential hitch in the pedestrian’s suit against Uber is that Herzberg was clearly jaywalking. Many states will bar the plaintiff from recovering if he or she contributed to the accident. However, Arizona is a comparative negligence state.

This means that Herzberg’s estate is not barred from recovery even if she were found to be 99% at fault. The recovery amount would be reduced by the percentage a jury would find the victim at fault though. Herzberg’s jaywalking might have cost her life, but it would only reduce the settlement her estate could recover.

Uber has struggled to teach the systems to adjust for unpredictable human behavior. This will cause more injuries in the future. In the long run though, computer drivers would safety than human drivers since the computers would actually follow all traffic laws and would not take any risks.

People might need to adjust to this new reality, but it will ultimately benefit everyone. There will always be speed bumps when testing new technology. For Uber’s sake, it had best avoid using human being as speed bumps in the future.

Understanding Police Body Cam Laws and the Shooting of Stephon Clark

The recent tragedy of Stephon Clark’s shooting has been made more public by the body cam footage released after the shooting making it clear there was little to no threat to the officers. It is also made less clear by the fact that the officers all told each other to mute their microphones after the shooting and then had several minutes of conversations amongst themselves.

However, the truth is that there might be a very different story around this shooting if the Sacramento Police Department hadn’t released both the body cam footage and the footage taken from the helicopter above.

These releases weren’t a department leak, nor were they really a tough decision for the Sacramento Police Department. They were required under their own rules, and Sacramento regulations, regarding police body cam footage. These types of laws have spread quite a bit in the last several years.

This is largely due to action from former-President Obama in 2014 offering federal grant money for police body cam programs that met certain requirements. The number of police shootings, especially of black men, had drawn–and frankly continues to draw–an enormous amount of criticism. This program was part of President Obama’s response to this criticism–although it is obviously not a solution.

For Sacramento’s part, they put quite a few rules in place as city policy back in 2016 after the fatal shooting by police of a mentally ill black man named Joseph Mann. The incident saw police attempt to strike the man twice with their vehicle before getting out and shooting him upwards of 20 times.

body camMann had yelled threats to the officers and apparently had a knife. However, although officers reported seeing a gun no firearm was ever found. The reason there is so much information about the incident is that it was caught on dashcam and the video was released by the city–featuring one officer saying he was going to hit Mann with the car while the other officer told him to “go for it.”

This incident led to both substantial reforms in the department and new rules on police cams–most notably a requirement that all Sacramento patrol officers wear body cameras.

These body cam rules are crucial both for police to protect themselves from false accounts or defend their actions and for the public to protect themselves from police misconduct. However, the laws differ substantially from state to state and there are no federal rules on the topic.

This means it’s important to know how the rules work where you live. In the next several days, we’re going to take a bit of a deeper dive than usual into this topic considering Mr. Stephon Clark’s tragic death.

Today, we’ll start with the actual events of the shooting caught on film as well as the rules on body camera’s in Sacramento. However, keep an eye out for upcoming information on existing body camera rules work in every state across the nation.

The Shooting of Stephon Clark

The actual shooting of Stephon Clark is all caught on camera through the two body cameras of the responding officers and a camera from a helicopter. Responding to a call regarding vandalism in the area, they enter the backyard of Mr. Clark’s grandmother, one of them with their weapon drawn. The video shows one officer around the corner to the backyard, spot Clark, and immediately yell at him to put his hands up.

Seconds later the other officer rounds the corner and yells “gun.” Shouts of “gun!” fill the air, Clark is told to freeze, and the officers nearly immediately shot at Clark twenty times-hitting him eight times. They then call for backup and walk up and handcuff the still form of Stephon Clark.

The item they believed to be a gun is visible during the handcuffing process–a rose-gold smart phone with a money clip on the back. Stephon had borrowed the phone his girlfriend–the mother of his two children.

Clark is left on the ground for around six minutes until backup shows up. The officers come together to talk about what has happened and one officer tells the others “hey mute.” The officers all mute their bodycams and the rest of the video is silent as they speak to each other and at least one Sacramento citizen.

Clark was pronounced dead at the scene. Since the shooting, demonstrators have taken to streets and appeared at city hall to protest the actions of the police.

What are Sacramento’s Body Cam Laws?

The events recorded here are awful, but the release of the footage of the incident is crucially important to give the public transparency on the issue. The release of all this footage is in line with Sacramento’s Body Worn Camera policies, requiring police to release videos of “critical incidents.” Critical incidents include quite a few things, such as shootings involving officers and deaths while in custody.

The video of such an event may be released within 30 days of the incident under Sacramento’s rules–although Chief Daniel Hahn (the first Sacramento police chief) released the footage much quicker than that. This has been a trend for Chief Hahn, one would assume to focus on transparency.

The Sacramento Body Cam Program benefited from a Department of Justice grant under former-president Obama’s federal program and has been ramping up for a few years now and finally implemented body cameras for police last year. The policy itself on their use, however, has been in place since 2016.

The policy requires the cameras to be activated during sobriety tests, vehicle stops, any sort of pursuit, warrantless searches of vehicles, incidents with suspected suicidal individuals, any call involving reportedly involving weapons or violence, executing a search warrant, giving Miranda rights, any incident involving protests or civil unrest, and a few other situations.

There is also policy on when a camera may be deactivated. Some situations are simply sensible, low battery life or when a witness or victim doesn’t want to be recorded. Quite a few are simply a matter of officer judgment, such as where it might interfere with an investigation or be inappropriate due to the condition of a victim or witness.

There are additional provisions in the policy–all media must be downloaded at the end of shifts, only approved body cams can be used, cameras must be worn for the entire shift. There are provisions on damaged gear, reporting recorded events, when the recordings can be reviewed, and more. However, there are absolutely no rules on whether muting a camera constitutes deactivation or muting in general.

What Can Be Learned from This Tragedy?

As we’ve seen from much of the reaction to Stephon Clark’s tragic death, the officers choosing to mute their cameras has drawn quite a bit of mistrust from the Sacramento community as opposed to the intended impact of body cams–transparency and public trust.

This doesn’t mean body cams are a bad idea. While the majority of police seek to protect the public, the stories of police misconduct are widespread and do not come from nowhere. These body cams, and the laws and policies around their implementation, are an important step towards much needed transparency and accountability.

However, what the muting incident does reveal is that a lot of body cam law and policy has not caught up to the twists and turns of what needs to be addressed when it comes to their use. The Sacramento Police Chief has already lamented the mistrust the muting incident has caused and said that it is an oversight in their policy that they will need to be addressed.

To be honest, there is a lot that needs to be addressed when it comes to the use of body cams nationwide. The Sacramento policy also lacks much in the way of repercussions for breaches–unauthorized attempts to tamper with, erase, or alter a body cam or its recordings are described as “employee misconduct” by the policy.

There’s no guaranteed repercussions for this–although perjury and destroying evidence carry their own punishments. However, simply improperly turning off a camera–never mind muting it–is not even particularly likely to result in a firing. There’s no evidentiary repercussions–such as a presumption against police testimony–associated with such actions.

This is true in many states across the country, not just Sacramento. Law continues to develop from state to state, however, many issues such as how a camera affects what’s in plain sight during a search, whether the recordings are subject to public disclosure, and more remain unaddressed. But the last few years have seen substantial movement on laws discussing the use of body cams. Later this week, we’ll get into how these laws apply in each given state.

Jonathan Lurie is a Founding Partner of The Law Offices of Lurie and Ferri (Contact Info). He primarily handles business law, employment law, and intellectual property issues, but works with all types of civil matters. He is a Vice-Chair of the Sports and Entertainment Interest Group of the California Intellectual Property Section and has won awards for his knowledge of intellectual property, start-up business issues, and California civil procedure.