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Police body camera video taken in private homes could be exempt from FOIA under Michigan bill

LANSING — With the prevalence of body cameras being worn on police increasing, Michigan lawmakers are looking to put some restrictions on what recordings can be released publicly.

Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, said House Bill 4234, which he introduced in February, would make sure audio and video recordings taken inside private places are exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act under current exemptions already in the law.

Those videos could be obtained by the people in the recordings, a person who had property seized or damaged during a crime to which the recordings are related, the parent or legal guardian of a person who was recorded and lawyers of people who are in the video. Runestad said the Michigan Legislature needs to lead the way on determining privacy protections for private citizens.

“For the most part, law enforcement policies will dictate the use of body-worn cameras,” he said, “but the protection of our citizens privacy should be guided by this body.”

The bill would also require recordings from body cameras be kept for 30 days, unless the recording is relevant to a complaint against a law enforcement officer or agency or there has been a request for the video. In those cases, and if the video is relevant to an ongoing investigation, the videos would be kept for three years.

Runestad said the reason videos that don’t meet those standards or weren’t directly involved in an investigation would only be kept for 30 days, instead of a longer period or indefinitely, was to try to limit costs to police departments. MORE