INDIANAPOLIS — A proposal to clamp down on publicly recorded government videos is headed to a vote at the Indiana House of Representatives, in a move that could keep all public video recordings secret. Indiana House Bill 1019, which sailed through a House committee with a unanimously favorable vote, “restricts public records requests for law enforcement recordings” and requires a court order to release recorded police body camera video. The bill was introduced by Hartford City Republican Representative Kevin Mahan.
“This outrageous proposal takes government secrecy to a new level, keeping public records completely under wrap,” said Dave Crooks, chairman of the Board of the Indiana Broadcasters Association (IBA), which represents more than 300 Indiana radio and TV broadcasters. Crooks served in the Indiana General Assembly from 1996 to 2008. “As drafted, the 22-page bill would allow law enforcement agencies to refuse to share public video records and require the public to file a lawsuit against an agency, prove a need for disclosure of the video, and have those asking for the video to bear the legal costs of such a request – unless you’re actually in the video.”
“The Indiana Broadcasters Association is eager to work with government agencies to preserve the public’s right to know what’s going on, and we realize that this is only a proposal at this stage – although a proposal that is picking up steam. It needs to be modified to preserve the public’s right to know,” said Crooks.
Today, Indiana government agencies must make public records available for public inspection. If that is denied, there must be a plausible reason tied to an ongoing investigation.
“As a former state legislator, it is surprising to me that the General Assembly may go against the spirit of our public records law that helps the public have transparency with all public actions. Just imagine if this proposed law was already in effect in Illinois. The recent video of a police officer shooting a teenager multiple times in the city of Chicago might have never been disclosed to the public,” Crooks said. “This move should make every Indiana citizen wonder what our government is are trying to hide by backing this unusual and sweeping change to Indiana public records law.”
The Indiana Broadcasters Association believes the current bill eliminates access to public video recorded by law enforcement agencies and is clearly contrary to current State of Indiana policy regarding public records that favors the release of public documents.
IBA also concurs with the Hoosier State Press Association, which says that “law enforcement has no legal incentive to make video available to the public under H.B. 1019 unless it exonerates the officer involved. The current language gives police chiefs and sheriffs carte blanche to decline all requests from the public or press solely on the basis that they don’t want to make videos available.”
“IBA understands that there are costs associated with public records requests and would be willing to discuss a fair and reasonable fee for access to police video records, and we could even help agencies who need to obscure certain elements of a video recording – such as the appearance of minor children. But, as drafted, House Bill 1019 goes way overboard and puts the burden of proving public interest on those who ask to see the recordings,” IBA Chairman Crooks said. “That’s a gross overreach that we simply cannot tolerate. In an era when the public is demanding more accountability with law enforcement – not less – it’s simply wrong to deny access to recorded activities of those who are sworn to protect and defend the public.”
About the IBA: The Indiana Broadcasters Association is a 300-member alliance of radio and television broadcasters, united to serve their audiences throughout the Hoosier state. IBA provides college scholarships to worthy students, recruits new employees for member stations at events throughout Indiana, and represents the broadcasting industry before Indiana General Assembly and to Washington, D.C. policymakers.