At a time where police transparency is a growing concern around the country, Kansas is attempting to take a huge step backwards. The idea of making body camera footage confidential is questionable at best. After all, if you are a good police officer doing your job, wouldn’t you want footage of that to be released if the public was claiming an abuse of power?
SB 18 would make body camera footage exempt from the Kansas Open Records Act. The Wichita Eagle reported that “only the subject of the recording, the parents or guardians of a minor in a recording or their attorneys could ask to see or listen to the recording.” Not only would the footage be exempt from open records, those allowed to see the footage would have to pay a “reasonable fee” to do so. Of course they have found a way to profit off what should be public information.
So who exactly would be behind trying to keep this police footage from the public? None other than the police themselves. SB 18 lists the following agencies as those who are insisting body camera footage remain confidential. “Representatives of the Lenexa Police Department, Kansas Highway Patrol, and Kansas League of Municipalities, as well as a representative of the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, Kansas Peace Officers Association, and Kansas Sheriffs Association, testified in opposition to the bill. The Johnson County Sheriff and Chief of Police of Arkansas City, as well as representatives of the cities of Shawnee, Wichita, Overland Park, and Concordia, submitted written testimony opposing the bill.”
It is very suspicious that the very people who could end up in trouble because of the footage from these body cameras, are the same people trying to keep them so protected. Between 2014 and 2015, there were at least 30 known reports of a police officer shooting a citizen. This number is hard to be sure of, since no system has been put into place to accurately keep track of officer related shootings. From what we could find, not one of those officers was charged.
This suggests that out of 30 citizens being shot by a police officer in Kansas, not one of those officers acted outside of the law. While possible, it is highly unlikely. This only covers two years of police shootings. How many other officers has the state of Kansas protected after committing a murder?
The idea that the entire state of Kansas has not had one unjustified shooting, despite many discrepancies throughout many of the states departments, is completely ludicrous. Moving forward with SB 18 keeps in the states tradition of protecting their officers before their citizens.
This report prepared by Meko Haze for Daily Haze.