Today, Mayor Jackie Biskupski issued a draft policy governing the release of police body camera recordings of critical incidents in Salt Lake City, while simultaneously inviting and encouraging the public to review the document and respond to it during a 30-day comment period.
“In working to set a policy that balances the need for transparency with the legitimate need to provide due process and to protect records during investigations and judicial proceedings, we have participated in deliberative engagement with the City’s Human Rights Commission and other members of the public,” Mayor Biskupski said. “We recognize the public’s role in further adding to this important process, and invite them to take part by providing additional critical input.”
The draft policy is designed to make clear the mechanism of when and how Salt Lake City will release information on critical incidents, and sets an expectation on investigating agencies to be transparent and accommodating of the public interest.
Beginning today, January 30th, and ending on March 1st, the Mayor’s Office will actively reach out to stakeholders for their engagement, including the ACLU of Utah, the Salt Lake Police Officers Association, Community Activist Group (CAG), the Valley Police Chiefs (VPA), the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, and others. A copy of the draft policy will be available by 5 p.m. today for public review and comment until the March 1st deadline at:
People may also contact the Mayor’s Office at 801-535-7704 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The draft policy seeks to weigh public interest with due process by having the City reach out to those law enforcement agencies that are required under Utah law to investigate the critical incident at hand. If those agencies indicate a need to temporarily protect the record, the City will require them to submit a written request, explaining why the recordings need to be protected.
The City will classify that request as a public record, subject to redaction of any private, controlled, or protected information. The requesting agency must be specific in its reasons for its request, simply parroting the statutory exceptions in GRAMA will not be accepted.
The draft policy is written to require the City to revisit the classification every 30 days. If an agency seeks additional time for protecting the record, that request for additional time must be in writing, and must explain why an additional 30 days is necessary. That request, and any other future requests, will be classified as public records subject to redaction of any private, controlled, or protected information.
This process may be repeated for a period up to 180 days from the date of the critical incident. At that point, the City will release the body camera recording, subject to redaction of any private, protected, or controlled images or sounds.
Overall, the draft policy is intended to:
- Balance the competing interests under GRAMA
- Recognize that transparency to the community is key in critical incident investigations
- Recognize legitimate law enforcement reasons exist to protect records during investigative and judicial stages
- Recognize that those reason can and should be explained to the public
- Recognize that in critical incidents, additional agencies that are charged under state statute with investigating them, have legitimate investigative interests in the body cam recordings
- Continually weigh and balance the competing interests throughout the process and recognize that at a certain point (180 days maximum) the records must be made public
- Deal only with body cam recordings of critical incidents (police shootings, etc.)