Louisiana legislation aims to give police body camera task force more time

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A Louisiana lawmaker is hoping to give policymakers more time to study how law enforcement officers should use body cameras in the state.

State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle introduced legislation Thursday to give the state’s “Louisiana Law Enforcement Body Camera Task Force” more time to “continue its work.”

The task force, established last June by the Legislature, brought together lawmakers, prosecutors, police, journalists and privacy advocates to study and make recommendations on how agencies around the state could best use the new technology.

The group met for the first time in December, and was originally set to deliver a report with those recommendations to lawmakers ahead of the start of the new legislative session on March 14. Marcelle’s new continuing resolution would re-establish the task force, and give the group until January 2017 to publish a report on the issue.

[Read more: Body camera bills explode in popularity among state lawmakers in 2015]

The legislative analytics company FiscalNote estimates that the resolution has a 95 percent chance of making it out of committee (once it earns an assignment). However, the company gives it 47.8 percent chance of passing in a floor vote, since it’s legislation sponsored by a Democrat in a body controlled by Republicans.

In a blog post, Jacob Lundy — an officer in the New Orleans Police Department and policy chair for the Fraternal Order of Police of New Orleans — wrote that the committee’s first meeting largely involved a debate over whether the state could mandate that every agency equip its officers with body cameras.

However, the state’s substantial budget deficit, which Gov. John Bel Edwards estimates at roughly $2 billion through the 2016-17 budget year, could make the costs of purchasing the cameras and storing the footage produced untenable.

“I think everyone would agree the state is in no position financially to pay for several thousand body cameras and incur the cost of maintenance and storage,” Lundy wrote.

Lundy added that privacy issues also dominated the task force’s early work, with debates over when officers should turn cameras on to how the videos should be disclosed to the public. He noted that task force members are currently in the process of “sourcing model legislation and existing research and data for submission to the committee.”

Louisiana is far from the only state to convene similar committees. A study by the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank focused on economic and social issues, found that seven other states and Washington, D.C., passed laws to pull together task forces or study groups on the issue.

“That’s good, thoughtful development of sound public policy,” Nancy La Vigne director of the institute’s Justice Policy Center and one of the report’s authors, previously told StateScoop.

Contact the reporter at alex.koma@statescoop.com, and follow him on Twitter @AlexKomaSNG.

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Body Cameras, Careers & Elected Officials, Economy, Emerging Technology, Gov. John Bel Edwards, Legislation, Legislator, Open Government, police body cameras, State & Local News, Tech News, transparency
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