KCBD investigation prompts state lawmaker to file bill

KCBD investigation prompts state lawmaker to file bill

LUBBOCK COUNTY, TX (KCBD) - A KCBD investigation now has District 83 Representative Dustin Burrows filing legislation to make it easier for police departments to release body-worn camera video.

Our investigative team brought attention to the concerns surrounding the body-worn camera law in reports last month.

Burrows' bill strikes the prohibition of police body-worn camera video being released to the public.

Instead, Burrows wants the police department to have the authority to release the video to the public after altering portions of the video to protect the identity of citizens.

This comes after our recent investigations into the law that Lubbock Police Department Chief Greg Stevens called 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," Stevens said in a news conference earlier this year when asked if he would release an officer's body-worn camera video that allegedly captures the officer shooting at a suspect's tires.

The chief later told us he checked with the city attorney who said because of the state's recent body-worn camera law, he would have to deny our request.

"Do you think this law restricts transparency?" we asked Chief Stevens.

"I think it can," he said.

Burrows said that interview caught his attention.

"The police chief raised some legitimate concerns," Burrows said.

Right now, the law reads that in deadly force incidents, departments cannot release video until all investigations have concluded.

However, the law allows a law enforcement agency may release to the public a recording if it furthers a law enforcement purpose.

"I think the public's need to know is a very important consideration. I think more times, probably most times, than not it is going to show we have great law enforcement, really solid. We don't need to have a cloud of doubt lingering because the video is being withheld," Burrows said in a February interview.

Burrows told us his main concern was protecting the privacy of citizens in the video.

"We are seeing if there is a way to see if their faces can be blurred out," Burrows told us.

"I think it was a very well done story and certainly drove home the point that we need to take a second look at it," Burrows said.

About a month later, Burrows is taking action.

On Thursday, Burrows filed a bill striking the wording that prevents police departments from releasing certain body-worn camera video before all investigations have concluded.

It also does away with the portion of the law that says law enforcement officers may release the video if it furthers a purpose.

Instead, Burrows wants police departments to be able to obscure the video so only law enforcement officers are identifiable before releasing them to the public.

On Friday, Burrows sent us this statement: "I filed House Bill 3793 in response to the report about our local law enforcement's concerns they could not release bodycam footage; and, their desire to do so to vindicate their officers after incidents. The bill addresses privacy concerns of third parties by concealing their identities before releasing the footage."

Burrows wants to see these changes go into effect by September 1, 2017.

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