Questions arise on GPD body camera use

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Publisher’s note – As the city of Griffin prepares to equip its police officers with body cameras, The Grip learned that current state law raises questions regarding the legality of their use in some circumstances.
A number of interviews with local and state officials were conducted and a series of articles can be found in this edition. Additional articles will be filed as information becomes available.

As the Griffin Police Department prepares to implement the use of body cameras, questions have arisen pertaining to the current applicable law and how it may impact their use.
The Grip interviewed City Manager Kenny Smith and asked if the camera use will conflict with Georgia law, potentially even placing officers in the position of committing a felony under O.C.G.A. 16-11-62, the eavesdropping law.
“The rule of thumb in Georgia, as far as I know, is that you can record with the consent of one party,” Smith said.
When the eavesdropping law was cited, which specifies when a video recording is made in locations where there is an expectation of privacy such as a residence, all parties recorded must consent, Smith said, “I don’t know. I can’t answer that question.”
After learning that attorneys from the Spalding County District Attorney’s Office and the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia have stated the eavesdropping law applies to the use of body cameras and also that there is no exemption for law enforcement officers, Smith said, “They are the attorneys and we probably need to get some clarification before we move forward. I probably don’t need to comment on it until I’ve had a chance to do some research, but it sounds like you’ve already done that.”
Smith stated that the body cameras will not be put into service until a policy has been established, and said there are already examples in use that will be evaluated.
“It will become part of the Police Department’s Standard Operating Procedure. I’m sure there will be some discussions with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Certification Program, CALEA and the District Attorney’s Office,” he said. “This is not something the city of Griffin is doing alone – we aren’t inventing the wheel.”
The Grip will continue to follow this issue and report additional developments, including research into potential policies, legislative developments and the actual implementation of law enforcement camera use by the Griffin Police Department.

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