Body-Worn Cameras, Forensic Evidence & the Right to Know

Forensic Fridays LogoOn Friday, January 27, I’ll be taking part in Forensic Friday, a regular program organized by Duquesne University’s Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law.

The topic is Balancing Safety, Justice and Privacy: Body-Worn Cameras, Forensic Evidence & the Right to Know.

Also part of the program are State Senator Randy Vulakovich; State Representative Dom Costa; former State Representative David Mayernik; Commander Clarence Trapp, head of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police’s Special Deployment Division; and Duquesne University School of Law Professor John Rago, who has been working closely with state legislators to develop legislation governing the use of body-worn cameras.

The program is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is approved by the Pennsylvania CLE Board for 3 hours of substantive CLE credit, by the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work for 3 hours of Social Work credit, and by the Pennsylvania Coroners Education Board for 1 hour of Coroners Education credit.

Here’s a fuller description from the University:

Nationwide, law enforcement agencies are increasingly adopting body-worn cameras (BWCs) to document police-suspect encounters at crime and incident scenes and during traffic stops. In many instances, agencies have found BWCs useful in the favorable resolution of both administrative and criminal complaints and as a defense resource in cases of civil liability. Citizens have found similar value in criminal and civil claims of excessive force. BWCs provide a clearly documented, firsthand, objective account of what was said and what occurred during the incident in question, and can provide investigators, prosecutors and juries with far more detailed, accurate and compelling evidence. Experience has also shown that BWCs have a positive influence on the behavior of officers themselves and the citizens they encounter, by promoting accountability and serving as an important training aid.

Despite these attributes, of the 150 BWC bills introduced nationwide in 2015, only 20 were passed and several are under siege. BWC legislation is complicated. From operating procedures to wiretap violations to privacy and “Right to Know” considerations, Pennsylvania has endeavored to address these complications in a bill now pending in the state legislature – PA SB 976. This seminar will provide a “real-time” report on how this bill, a high priority for the 2017 legislative session, addresses these issues, as well as how Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have shaped its policy.

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