For the second year in a row, legislation has been proposed to set up the framework to ensure that the use of body cameras among police agencies in Rhode Island properly safeguards the integrity of encounters between law enforcement and civilians. The ACLU testified in support of the bill in front of the House Judiciary Committee during the first week of April, arguing that cameras have the potential to be a win-win for both law enforcement and the community—but only if they are deployed within a framework of strong policies to ensure they promote transparency and accountability, while also protecting legitimate privacy interests during some police encounters.
The legislation contains provisions that detail when the camera should be activated by the police officer during an encounter, as well as when recording should be discontinued if a crime victim asks to do so. An important provision addresses the use, retention, and access to body camera data, stating that any body camera recording should be kept for up to three years if it “captures use of force, events leading up to a felony arrest, an encounter that has resulted in a complaint, or if an officer asserts that the recording has evidentiary or exculpatory value.” The legislation would also allow victims of police force to obtain access to the camera footage. It is in contrast to the policy adopted by the Providence Police Department - the first department in the state to purchase the cameras - which the ACLU has criticized for failing to promote either transparency or accountability. No further action was taken on this legislation after the hearing.