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Hunter proposes ‘review boards,’ cop cams

Body CameraBy Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

State Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) has offered two bills this week aimed at increasing scrutiny over law enforcement activities in Iowa.

House File 495, the more expansive of the two bills, would prohibit a security agent or law enforcement agency from engaging in racial profiling. It would also require the state each of its political subdivisions (i.e. cities, counties and school districts) to establish citizens’ review boards to review complaints of racial profiling made against a law enforcement agency or security agent within their respective jurisdiction.

Under the bill, a majority of the membership of each board shall consist of people from minority groups disproportionately impacted by racial profiling and people who are not security agents. It would be the board’s duty to “establish policies and procedures designed to assist in the elimination of racial profiling.”

The proposed legislation does not provide a mechanism for how many members these boards will include, nor how the members will be selected. It also does not direct how smaller incorporated cities can comply with its provisions if they do not possess their own law enforcement agencies, or if an inadequate number of minorities can be found to comply with the “minority majority” membership requirement.

The bill’s explanatory statement says: “If a citizens’ review board finds that a security agent who is a peace officer or certified law enforcement officer engaged in racial profiling, the bill requires that the board notify the agency employing the security agent and the agency shall initiate procedures to suspend the security agent from performing the security agent’s official duties.

“If such security agent is found to have engaged in racial profiling a second time by the board, the bill requires the agency to initiate procedures to suspend the security agent for a longer period than the first suspension. Upon a third or subsequent finding that such security agent has engaged in racial profiling, the agency shall initiate procedures to dismiss the security agent from performing the official duties of the agent.”

HF 495 also includes provisions – identical to those in his second bill, House File 452 – which would require a peace officer to wear a body camera at all times while on duty and in uniform, and that he or she must record all interactions with people in the performance of the official duties from beginning to end. It specifies that a body camera must be worn on the chest or at the eye level of the peace officer.

The bill prohibits a body camera from containing facial recognition technology unless authorized by the court pursuant to an arrest or search warrant. It also requires peace officers to inform those who are being recorded, unless such a warning would be unsafe, impractical, or impossible.

The proposed legislation provides several instances in which a citizen may request the camera by turned off. It also provides for instances in which a citizen may request prolonged retention of a camera recording.

HF 495 requires all camera recordings be retained for at least 30 days. Prolonged retention, up to three years, is required when:

  • the recording depicts an incident involving the use of force;
  • the recording depicts an incident that leads to detention or arrest of a person;
  • the recording is relevant to a formal or informal complaint against a peace officer or agency; or
  • a request has been made to retain the recording.

The proposed legislation does allow for longer retention of camera recordings when the contents are relevant to a criminal prosecution.

Violations of the provisions of the bill could lead to suspension of the peace officer. And in court proceedings, under the proposed legislation, the lack of camera recording evidence creates a “rebuttable presumption … that the recording would corroborate the version of the facts advanced by the defendant in the criminal action or the party opposing the peace officer or agency in the civil action.”