San Diego

New Calif. Law Requires Timely Release of Body Cam Footage

A new California law requires police to release body camera footage within 45 days when it involves a death or an officer firing a gun.

Advocates for transparency in the case of the death of Earl McNeil, who died after 16 days in National City Police Custody, are relieved.

The body camera footage was more than four months old when it was finally released two weeks ago.

“We would have seen exactly what happened,” said civil rights activist and spokesman for the McNeil family, Mark Lane, who has been pushing to have the tape released for months. “It’s a good day. It’s a huge step in the right direction.”

Lane said even after police released the footage they blurred more than an hour of the video. “So, an hour and 14 minutes of that two hours and 20 minutes was blurred out so we still don’t know what happened,” he said.

The Police Officer’s Research Association of California officially opposed the law, arguing releasing videos can jeopardize witnesses, invites the media to interfere with investigations and contradicts with itself. Lane agrees with the last part.

“There’s still a little bit of an issue with part of the language in there where it says ‘unless it interferes with an active investigation,’ which is the excuse that all the police departments use now not to release,” Lane said.

The president of the San Diego Police Officer’s Association said he doesn’t like the law but they’ll learn to adapt.

“I hope that the relationships improve,” Lane said. “I hope that the policing improves.”

Lane said he is still fighting on the McNeil family’s behalf to have the blurred portion of the video released. He added, “There are some issues, otherwise this bill wouldn’t have been necessary.”

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