The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants a new system for making public police dash cam videos to prevent unnecessary delays.
The bill by Sen. Larry Martin of Pickens was among about three dozen bills “pre-filed” Wednesday by senators in advance of their return to work next month.
Martin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he filed his bill in response to the fatal shooting in July of Zachary Hammond, a Seneca teen, by a police officer. The incident was captured on the officer’s dash cam.
The Greenville News filed a state Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the video after the shooting and eventually sued for its release.
The video was released near the end of October after Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams concluded the officer’s actions did not constitute a crime.
Martin’s bill would require that all law enforcement dash cam videos are releasable under the state Freedom of Information Act but their release could be delayed if prosecutors and law enforcement seek an injunction after convincing a judge, who could conduct a private review of the video.
Martin said he was concerned about delays in the release of the video in the Seneca case but also in the year-long delay in the release of a video of a killing of a Chicago teen by an officer there.
“I just think the public deserves better than that,” he said of delays.
He said such a system would provide consistency for law enforcement, prosecutors and the public instead of the current handling of such requests, in which he said police or prosecutors do not have to detail why they are not releasing the video.
“Having a judge review this is not going to enable a prosecutor or a law enforcement agency to misrepresent their reasons for wanting to withhold it,” he said. “They’re going to have to explain that to a judge.”
Martin said he hopes the system will “bring a level of confidence” that will allow the public to support law enforcement and lighten the amount of litigation required to release such videos.