Miller, Davis legislation would increase transparency in law enforcement videos

Bill would build upon progress made in 2017 law on body cameras

HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – State Reps. Dan Miller and Austin Davis, both D-Allegheny, are introducing legislation to provide more transparency and accountability when it comes to police videos and recording of law enforcement in Pennsylvania.

Act 22 of 2017 approved the use of body cameras by law enforcement. While Miller and Davis believe the law has protected both officers and the public, they also believe it has shortcomings that need to be addressed.

“Act 22 was an important bill that I believe has helped de-escalate some situations and improve safety,” Miller said. “But at the same time, it decreased transparency by restricting the public’s ability to access police video previously subject to the state’s Right to Know Law and made it more challenging to get any footage from law enforcement in a variety of ways. Our legislation would reverse much of that and make other important changes.”

Miller and Davis’ legislation would:

  • Return all non-body camera police video to the purview of the Right to Know Law, as was the case before Act 22.
  • Increase the amount of time a person has to request body camera footage from 60 to 180 days.
  • Increase the ways a person may formally request such footage.
  • Increase response time for such requests.
  • Increase appeal rights by providing for review by the Office of Open Records.
  • Develop a uniform request form.
  • Protect and enshrine the right of citizens to record police officers who are conducting official business without interference from them.
  • Codify that citizens cannot violate the law or interfere with police officer responsibilities when making the recording.

This bill would not make any changes to the investigative exemption relating to body camera footage established by Act 22. Overall, Davis said, this proposal would benefit all stakeholders.

“Additionally, this legislation would establish rules and protections for the public’s ability to record law enforcement activity,” said Davis. “These changes are an important step toward increasing police accountability and transparency in the commonwealth while also working to improve police-community relations.”

The bill is expected to be introduced soon.