The Utah State Legislature may decide policy for police officer body cameras

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Legislature is expected to decide if a uniform policy should be implemented for every police officer in the state who wears a body camera.

At a hearing Tuesday before the legislature's Administrative Rules Committee, lawmakers seemed inclined to support a policy on body cameras.

"I believe that whatever we have ought to be a uniform policy across the state in relation to this and also the bigger issue of use of force and deadly force," said Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper.

But lawmakers grappled with detailed issues beyond a blanket policy. Police chiefs, sheriffs and advocacy groups all gave input in a lengthy hearing.

Overall, Utah Highway Patrol Col. Danny Fuhr said, officers love the cameras because they offer protection for the public and the officer against misconduct complaints.

"Our troopers, they would not go to work tomorrow if they did not have a camera recording their every single move," Fuhr declared.

Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said that his deputies have embraced them, but also try to respect people's privacy. That was an issue identified by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs.

"It's more than just a policy about when these things need to be turned off and on," he said. "We have issues about privacy that loom very large."

West Jordan Police Chief Doug Diamond testified that he believed the video from body cameras should be exempted from state public records laws. Fuhr said the UHP treats them as a matter of public record.

"Every law enforcement encounter with a  member of the public, for the most part, should be recorded and we should air on the side of over-recording," said Marina Lowe with the ACLU of Utah.

There are issues over how long the video is kept, where it is stored, who gets access to it and how much taxpayers should have to spend for all of it. The UHP said it contracts to store its video for up to 10 years (mostly for legal reasons) on a cloud server at a cost of $600,000. Lawmakers also raised questions about continually upgrading technology.

There were not enough lawmakers to vote to advance any particular policies. The Administrative Rules Committee is expected to consider the issue again at a meeting in a couple of months.