Pittsburgh Body Camera Policy Contrasted With ACLU Model | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

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Pittsburgh Body Camera Policy Contrasted With ACLU Model

Violence against and by the police has been a recent concern for law enforcement throughout the United States. The Pittsburgh Police Department has opted to use body cameras in order to discourage police brutality and clarify any questions that may exist surrounding police behavior. Recently, Pittsburgh released its policies regarding the use of police body cameras. Those guidelines are similar to those suggested by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Model Act for Regulation of the Use of Wearable Body Cameras by Law Enforcement.

ACLU Model Act and Pittsburgh Body Camera Policy

The guidelines for the use of body cameras work to ensure the safety of the public and law enforcement officers. However, without carefully created policies, these devices may violate laws and privacy instead.

  • Use By Authorities – The ACLU suggests that only officers with the authority to conduct searches and make arrests should wear body cameras, and they should only be used when responding to service. The Pittsburgh police policy requires officers to be trained to use the cameras, and they may only be used while on official police business.
  • Consent to Record Victims – The ACLU suggests that police officers obtain consent to record apparent crime victims on body cameras. Although Pittsburgh policies do not specifically require permission from people in public locations, there are restrictions in private residences that protect the privacy of people in their own homes. Further, officers must announce that they are recording in a public location.
  • Anonymous Reporting of Crimes – The ACLU suggests that law enforcement officers stop recording when a person seeks to anonymously report a crime. The Pittsburgh police are not required to stop recording if they are in a public location. In fact, they are not permitted to stop recording until an incident is complete.
  • Secret Recording – The ACLU suggests that body cameras should not be used surreptitiously or without the knowledge of other individuals. Pittsburgh police must identify themselves as officers and inform anyone around them that they are recording. Additionally, they are not allowed to record in private residences without permission.
  • Retention of Videos – The ACLU suggests that video recording should not be retained for longer than three years. The Pittsburgh policy indicates that recordings will be destroyed after 90 days unless it contains something of evidentiary value.
  • Recording in Private Residences – The ACLU suggests that officers discontinue use of body cameras if requested in a private residence. Pennsylvania wiretapping laws prohibit officers from recording in private residences without permission. However, a bill has been introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate that would allow officers to record in private residences in situations where they believe a crime is being committed inside and when they are in pursuit of an offender.
  • Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC Can Help

    Police body cameras can be beneficial; however, they may also violate your rights. The law is still developing regarding body camera use and operation. If you believe your rights were violated due to the use of a body camera by law enforcement officers, contact our Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys today at (412) 281-2146.