Burrows considering reform to body-worn camera law

KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – A recent KCBD investigation has caught the attention of a state lawmaker.

Earlier this month, we requested the body-worn camera video of a Lubbock police officer attempting to stop a vehicle by shooting out its tires.

That request was denied due to a recent state law that places restrictions on the release of body-worn camera video.

Now, District 83 State Representative Dustin Burrows is looking into it.

“Did you see our recent story and our interview with Chief Stevens about the body-worn camera law?” we asked Burrows.

“I did, great story. Certainly the police chief raised some very legitimate concerns,” Burrows said.

Lubbock Police Chief Greg Stevens spoke at a news conference following an evening where officers fired their weapons in two separate incidents.

One of those was caught on camera.

When asked if the department would release that video, the chief said the body-worn camera law was precarious.

“I would rather put out video than not so let me do some research and make sure I don’t run afoul of state law,” he said.

As the KCBD Investigative Team reported earlier this month, Chief Stevens said he checked with the city attorney, and according to the recent state law, they would not be able to release the video.

“I think the public’s need to know is a very important consideration,” Burrows said.

“I think more times, probably most times, than not it’s going to show we have great law enforcement, really solid. We don’t need to have a cloud of doubt lingering because that video is being withheld,” Burrows said.

“It’s my goal to release video anytime we can. That is how you build transparency,” Stevens said.

Senator Charles Perry said this topic has come up recently in senate hearings.

“I think given enough time and enough vetting and enough discussion through the legislative process, you are going to see those windows of opportunity to have those body cams and that footage and stuff more available and more transparent,” Perry said.

He said it has really become an awareness item in the last 12 months.

While Perry believes the video might become more accessible, he has some concerns.

“I am a huge advocate of a criminal justice system that is fair and equitable for all and in that process, if you are starting to release stuff really before it was vetted or the narrative if you will, can be developed as to what really went down here, you may do a disservice to either side of that,” Perry said.

It is something Burrows said he is going to look into.

“I do want to talk to the district attorney’s office and the attorney general’s office about that. I heard pretty clearly on your story that more times than not, the police chief wants to release this ahead of time, and I think their interests need to be taken into consideration,” Burrows said.

Burrows said one of his main concerns is the privacy of the individuals captured in the video who are not law enforcement officers.

“We are seeing if there is a way their faces can be blurred out,” Burrows said.

Burrows said as it reads right now, the law appears to be pretty vague.

“We are taking a hard look at it and trying to think through some of the logistics of what needs to be done,” Burrows said.

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Read more here: http://www.kcbd.com/story/34512719/kcbd-investigates-burrows-considering-reform-to-body-worn-camera-law