Making law enforcement body camera footage public: Concerns with House Bill 2362

February 2, 2016

House Bill 2362 governs how the public can request footage taken by a body camera from a law enforcement officer via the Public Records Act (PRA). The bill also directs law enforcement agencies to develop polices on the use of body cameras and creates a task force to study and make recommendations on all aspects of the use of body-worn cameras for surveillance, gathering evidence, and transparency and accountability in interactions between law enforcement officials and members of the public.

WSHA is neutral to the bill as it is written, as it creates a presumption that footage that invades privacy, such as recordings taken in the “interior of a medical facility, counseling or therapeutic program office,” are not subject to disclosure under the PRA. However, the Allied Daily Newspapers is seeking to narrow this protection to only recordings taken in “the waiting or treatment area of a medical facility, or counseling or therapeutic program office.”

WSHA strongly opposes narrowing this protection. We believe recordings taken anywhere in medical facilities should be protected from disclosure.

Health care information is personal and sensitive, people have an expectation that their privacy will be respected and protected in a medical facility. Recordings in hospitals outside of treatment or waiting rooms could capture highly private moments, such as a family crying in the cafeteria after receiving devastating news about a loved one, a pregnant woman trying to walk off labor pains in a hospital hallway or a patient going through a traumatic mental health crisis in a loading dock. Though others may witness these moments, they are not captured on camera or physically archived.

Also, while media is often invited to film in the hospital, recordings take place with patient and hospital consent, in approved areas, and under the supervision of hospital representatives.

WSHA will continue to strongly oppose narrowing the protection of this fundamental privacy. For more information, contact Zosia Stanley (206/216-2511).


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