BILL WOULD SET STANDARDS FOR POLICE BODY CAMERAS
|Senator Royce West of Dallas authored the bill that would set guidelines for the use of body cameras by police officers.|
(AUSTIN) — The Senate Criminal Justice Committee looked at a bill Tuesday that would create a set of uniform rules for police departments using body cameras. Dallas Senator Royce West said that several high-profile cases involving police use of deadly force have prompted national interest in cameras worn on the body by police officers that record interactions with the public. He argued that in places where it has been adopted it has led to positive results. West cited the example of Rialto, California, where complaints against officers and deadly force incidents have significantly dropped since the introduction of body cameras in 2012.
West's bill, SB 158, would set out guidelines for the use of body cameras and the storage of recordings. Departments would have to train officers who wear body cameras as well as anyone who handles the recordings from those cameras. It would require officers to activate their cameras during interactions with the public, but would allow officers to shut off the cameras during non-confrontational encounters, including when interviewing witnesses or victims. Video evidence would be preserved for 90 days. It would also create a grant program in which interested police departments can apply for to help to pay for body cameras.
West acknowledged that there is concern from some members of the law enforcement community about the use of body cameras, but said there were similar concerns about the implementation of now-ubiquitous dash cameras in police cruisers. He said that some former opponents to dash cameras are now strong supporters. "Many of them don't want to leave the police department without their dash cameras," he said. West said he has held weekly meetings with stakeholders including representatives from law enforcement and civil rights groups, and said he'd continue to work with interested groups as the bill moves through the legislative process.
In floor action Tuesday, the Senate approved three measures aimed at currently legal synthetic drugs. The first two measures, Senate Bills 172 and 173 by Senator Joan Huffman of Southside Place, were aimed at two specific drugs, known as 25I and K2. 25I is a synthetic drug that causes similar effects to psychotropic drugs like LSD and can cause serious harm to users, said Huffman. She added that the Department of Public Safety identified 54 cases of 25I use in 2014 but were unable to take action due to the lack of state statue. "Since we last met in 2013, there have been many, many young people who have been injured or who have died from ingesting this substance," she said. The second drug, K2, is marketed as a synthetic analogue to marijuana and while many municipalities have banned its sale and possession, it can still be purchased in some cities as well as online. Huffman's bills would add both drugs to the list of controlled substances and make it illegal to sell, possess or produce the drugs.
The third drug ban measure targets dealers of synthetic drugs. SB 461 author Senator Charles Perry of Lubbock said his bill will hit synthetic drug dealers in their pocket books. "The reason the retailers sell this is because the money's too good, and there's not a big enough reason not to," he said. Perry's bill will allow prosecutors to sue retailers who sell synthetic drugs for up to $25,000 per offense. This bill along with SB 172 and SB 173 now head to the House for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, March 25 at 11 a.m.