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House Judiciary Committee moves legislation enabling police to use body-worn cameras

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HARRISBURG — The state House Judiciary Committee moved legislation to enable police officers to use body-worn cameras today during the committee’s weekly voting meeting.

“By using body-worn cameras, the conduct of a potential perpetrator of a crime becomes a highly helpful visual piece of evidence in the case,” said Majority Chairman Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin).  “But, there are other benefits to the implementation of these cameras as well.  It has been found that body cameras have a calming effect on both police officers and members of the public who are recorded, which has led to less crime and violence.”

Senate Bill 560 would amend the Wiretap Act, primarily regarding police use of body cameras.  The bill would permit the use of these body cameras within the home, which is currently disallowed.  The bill would require the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to approved recording devices used and also requires PSP to establish standards for on-site and off-site storage of recordings that meet the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services security policy.  Municipal law enforcement or sheriffs who make recordings must comply with PSP guidelines and establish written policies regarding training; use, maintenance and storage of devices and recordings; use of facial recognition software; and discipline for violation of policies.

Further, the bill would allow the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to commission grants to support body worn devices and recordings on the existence of such protocols.  The bill would exempt police body camera recordings from the Right-to-Know Law, and instead establish a new process for public access to such recordings.

In addition to the body camera changes, the bill would permit the recording of any oral, electronic or wire communication made by or to an inmate, not just those made over a telephone as current law states.