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Expert blasts Adams County’s body camera policy

Expert blasts Adams County’s body camera policy

Dustin Hurst
November 19, 2015
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November 19, 2015

An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer rebuked the Adams County Sheriff’s Office for its lack of a body camera policy for its deputies.

Adams County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Falks released the office’s policy to IdahoReporter.com Thursday, nearly three weeks after two sheriff’s deputies killed Council farmer Jack Yantis.

The complete text of the policy that Falks sent follows:

Adams County video response

Chad Marlow, Advocacy and Policy Council for the national ACLU, told IdahoReporter.com Adams County officials would do well to rework the policy in the aftermath of the Nov. 1 incident that cost Yantis his life.

“That’s not a body camera policy,” Marlow said. “That’s a blurb.”

Days after the killing Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman told a local newspaper that his deputies wore body cameras during the incident, but he didn’t say if the devices captured any footage. Zollman confirmed a dash camera, which could have recorded the situation, was not turned on during the episode.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation submitted public records requests to the sheriff’s office and the Idaho State Patrol, which now leads the investigation into the killing, to obtain any video that might exist.

Both agencies denied the records requests, stating that Idaho law protects the release of information vital to ongoing criminal investigations.

As the country grapples with how best to deploy body cameras in the wake of several police killings of unarmed people through the last few years, Marlow and other experts warn shortsighted and weak regulations that govern their use could lead to trouble.

“Police body cameras are a complex law enforcement tool that has great potential for good and for harm based on the policies that govern them,” Marlow said. “When body camera policies are not well considered, problems can arise very quickly, as seems to be the case here.”

The Adams County policy falls short of body-camera regulation guidelines issued last September by the U.S. Department of Justice. Among the guidelines provided to local police officials:

  • With limited exceptions, officers should be required to activate their body-worn cameras when responding to all calls for service and during all law enforcement-related encounters and activities that occur while the officer is on duty.
  • Officers should be required to articulate on camera or in writing their reasoning if they fail to record an activity that is required by department policy to be recorded
  • Body-worn camera training should be required for all agency personnel who may use or otherwise be involved with body-worn cameras.

The Dept. of Justice guidelines also suggest agencies should “develop comprehensive written policies prior to implementing a body-worn camera program.”

ISP told IdahoReporter.com last week, there exists no timeline for releasing any body camera video that may have captured the Yantis killing.

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