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State House OKs bill on police body camera footage

LANSING (AP) — Michigan lawmakers are looking to help create policies for body camera footage obtained by law enforcement officers, including how to maintain and handle the recordings.

The Republican-dominated state House unanimously passed legislation Tuesday that would require police departments to develop written policies on using body cameras. The bill also would exempt some footage from being obtained by Freedom of Information Act requests.

Republican state Rep. Jim Runestad of White Lake, who is sponsoring the bill, said he could not believe some of the testimony he heard about officers having to go to the local Wal-Mart to buy their own cameras and then tossing their footage into a box at work.

“It was the wild, wild West so there was absolutely the need for this kind of bill. That’s why you saw unanimous support across the board,” Runestad said.

Lisa McGraw, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Press Association, took issue with the portion about exempting some footage. She said if an officer is shown acting inappropriately, that footage should not be held back.

Runestad said the bill calls for most footage to be requested under the Freedom of Information Act and that only in certain sensitive situations will it not be released.

“You can’t have a situation — and the state of Michigan, the people are not gonna tolerate — where you have a slip and fall in your bathroom and they capture you naked on the floor and people want to make a blooper show out of that,” Runestad said.

He added that he knows there have been times when people have posted such footage on YouTube for people to watch and make fun of whoever is in the video.

Moving the bill “one word, one inch” another way would have collapsed the support for it, Runestad said.

The bill now goes to the Michigan Senate.

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