Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Senator Latz, tell the whole story

There is no question the issue of body cameras is an intricate and complex one.  Secondly, as someone who has been at the Legislature lobbying for four decades I am very much aware of behavior of this institution and the elected officials who make it their workplace.

When there is a convoluted issue which SF 498 presents to policymakers, for many they may chose to ignore the bill or take partial interest, but for sure they rely on a Senator or two to understand and to explain the bill.  With body cameras, work has been done on this issue by Senator Ron Latz. 

A Chief Author of a bill in my judgement there is a special responsibility to be clear and concise what their bill 'truly does'.  In the case of SF 498, Senator Latz did not do this.

As someone who has been involved in the body camera issue since the fall of 2014 I am very much aware by current law a fair amount of video from body cameras are not available to the public and will never be.

Under current law, video dealing with sexual assault, child abuse, vulnerable adults are among other classifications that video would never be released to the general public.  Secondly, law enforcement has vast discretionary authority to not release the data in many situation and be available to the public. This is a guide issued by the Department of Administration which states the current law.  Matter of fact the City of Burnsville have had body cameras for six years, Duluth has had them for two years, both under current

Senator Latz throughout his advocacy of the bill has used the argument "all data" will become public if the Legislature does not act.  I confronted him about his statements off the floor last year and stated it was misleading. In public testimony it was clearly stated by representatives of Minnesota Coalition on Government Information that current law makes private many of the situations used and described as examples. He continued to even ignore that.

Again, when he stated it yesterday "All of the data collected by the devices is public," I was stunned.

The Senator is entitled to do what ever he wants to do, but when the person is not forthright on a dominant rationale for the bill, sunshine needs to be brought to it.

I disagree with the Senator that the bill is balanced.  And discussion can be done on it's merits, but do not obfuscate and instill fear with not being accurate and on the level.

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