What Are Your Rights: Why Is Some Body Camera Footage Withheld?

Recorded on February 14, 2024

This week, Troy Police released body cam footage of an incident from October where a man died in Troy police custody. But this footage didn’t include moments where the suspect receives medical attention due to the Attorney General’s Office of Special Investigation policy. Managing partner Paul Harding of Harding Mazzotti is on CBS6 to explain a little bit about what this policy is, what it allows and doesn’t allow.

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Narrator: The following segment is sponsored by Harding Mazzotti.

Interviewer: This week, Troy Police released body cam footage of an incident from October where a man died in Troy police custody. But this footage didn’t include moments where the suspect receives medical attention due to the Attorney General’s Office of Special Investigation policy. So managing partner Paul Harding from Harding Mazzotti is here with us today. So, can you explain a little bit about what this policy is, what it allows and doesn’t allow?

Paul: Right. So the body cam’s kind of a new concept, right? And there’s a lot of energy around that. But, when you have something that needs to be redacted, something that isn’t gonna be given out, it’s gonna take more time. And so, in a situation where someone’s receiving medical attention, they don’t view as that something that needs to be public information, right? There’s privacy concerns. You may have a witness who you don’t wanna reveal who’s there relative to investigation, that can be pulled out. So, once you have tape, that’s gonna be redacted, it’s gonna make it longer before it gets distributed.

Interviewer: Yeah. And that was gonna be my next question, why is there such a large discrepancy about, you know, how soon certain body camera footage can come out versus other ones?

Paul: You know, and if you go state by state, I mean, you got a situation where some states require court order, right? We have a foil request. Some states say, “Well, we’ll do it after the investigation is concluded. We give it as soon as it’s available.” But, going back to those concerns, the second you’re gonna take tape and you’re gonna make some changes to it, right? It’s not instant. And, you know, is it priority number one going on in the police department, or the state police, or the state agency? Probably not, right? They’re just working through the process. But, here in New York we have the most…one of the most easy access to the cameras. Although there are protections that the public’s gonna get privacy, and so that often can raise concerns. And when you’ve got a hot button case, they’re gonna wonder, “Well, what was really in that stuff that you took out?”

Interviewer: Well, that was what I was just gonna say. I understand the privacy concerns, but you start to question how much is really being edited here.

Paul: And they do. And innuendo sometimes can have more of a longstanding effect than the facts themselves.

Interviewer: Yeah. All right. Well, thanks for breaking it down for us. I appreciate it.

Paul: Absolutely. Yep.

Interviewer: And for more info covered in our weekly “What Are Your Rights?” segments, or to send us a story idea, just head to our website, cbs6albany.com.

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