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A recent bill highlighting public access to police-worn body camera footage and data has been hailed by proponents as a major protection for the rights of Washington, D.C. residents.

The D.C. Council Judiciary Committee passed the bill on Nov. 19. The measure prioritizes public access to recordings, requires ongoing analysis and auditing of the program by oversight agencies and researches, and protects the privacy of individuals in their homes and victims of domestic violence incidents, stalking, and sexual abuse.

“What we voted on today, in the judiciary committee, is the result of eight months of really extensive engagement from the public as well as other stakeholders who had an interest in body worn cameras,” Judiciary Chair Kenyan R.  McDuffie (D-Ward 5) told the AFRO after the meeting. “What I think we’ve achieved is one of the most comprehensive body worn camera policies in the nation.”

The bill will go before the full council for the first of two votes on Dec. 1.

According to The Washington Post, the bill eliminates or alters language initially proposed by Mayor Bowser which would have given law enforcement leeway to deny requests to see video involving any assaults or video taken anywhere that a person might “have a heightened expectation of privacy.” The mayor also wanted to prohibit viewing of officers involved in criminal investigation. In September, Bowser proposed purchasing the 2,400 cameras at a cost of more than $5 million.

“We are striking a balance between government transparency and preserving privacy,” said McDuffie.  “We have come a long way from the original plan, and this bill is a big win for both residents and law enforcement. Our ultimate goal is to institutionalize the community policing model in our law enforcement agencies in an effort to build trust and accountability. Body worn cameras are one tool to that end.”

“We are pleased that we will be able to move forward to implement one of the largest body-worn camera programs in the nation,” said Chanda Washington, a spokeswoman for Kevin Donahue, deputy mayor for public safety and justice. “The Mayor believes body-worn cameras can improve accountability and transparency and improve community-police relations.”