House Passed HB617

HB617 was passed by the full House with an amendment.  This bill requires state police to wear body cameras and defines when such video is available to the public.  The amendment was approved by a voice vote and then the amended bill was approved as ought to pass by a voice vote on the regular calendar.  The House vote adopted the OTP report from the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.  The committee voted 14-3.  The report was presented by Rep. Robert Cushing:

Over the course of the past 2 legislative sessions, the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has devoted a lot of time considering legislation and studying issues regarding the deployment of Body-Worn Cameras (BWCs) used by law enforcement. The committee heard testimony and received input from representatives of a number of law enforcement agencies, the offices of the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Safety, civil liberties advocates, defense attorneys, advocates for crime victims, representatives of media organizations, representatives of vendors of cameras and data storage systems, as well as members of the public. There is a general consensus amongst stakeholders that the use of BWCs can be a benefit to public safety, foster better interactions between police and members of the public, protect members of law enforcement, promote accountability and assist in investigations. The amendment to HB 617 recommended by the committee represents a synthesis of best practices and a balanced approach to the use of BWCs that is appropriate for New Hampshire. The use of BWCs will be voluntary. For agencies that choose to use them, HB 617 requires that officers can only use BWCs issued by their departments, all recordings are the property of their police department, all images and sound from a BWC recording are for law enforcement purposes only, all officers using BWCs must be trained, BWCs must be activated on arriving at the scene of a call for service or when engaged in any law enforcement-related activity, recordings must be specific to an incident and not cover an entire patrol, officers must inform individuals they are being recorded, and, except for emergencies, officers can only use while in uniform. BWCs may not be used to record certain events, including intimate body searches, an interview with a crime victim, unless the victim consents, interaction with a person wishing to report a crime anonymously, when engaged in personal activities, in locations where an individual has an expectation of privacy such as a residence or restroom. Once activated, the BWC must remain on until the event is completed and all recordings must be securely stored according to FBI standards and no one may alter, erase, copy, share or otherwise distribute except as provided in the law. BWC records are exempt from the Right to Know Law, except when the recordings show any restraint or use of force by an officer, excluding portions that constitute an invasion of privacy, or the discharge of a firearm, or a felony-level arrest, excluding any portion that constitutes an invasion of privacy. The committee believes that the bill as amended represents an appropriate balance between public safety and individual liberty.

The House referred the bill to the House Finance Committee, but the referral was waived by the committee chair, Rep. Neal KurkHB617 now goes to the Senate.

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