Friday, August 5, 2011

Kentucky looks like only state that denies access to recordings made by police-cruiser cameras

Kentucky appears to be the only state that denies public access to recordings made by cameras in police cruisers. Scott Wartman of The Kentucky Enquirer discovered that this week as he followed up on the guilty plea by Covington City Commissioner Steve Frank for driving under the influence.

"Open-records laws across the country compiled by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press show that only in Kentucky is the public not allowed to view video of DUI traffic stops," Wartman writes. "First Amendment experts say they don't know of any other state with an exemption for DUI videos," and some think the law "raises constitutional issues and violates the public's right to know." Making cruiser recordings available "serves as an important check on police abuse," David Hudson, a scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, told Wartman.

The law was passed in 1984 with major changes to Kentucky's DUI law. The sponsor of the bill, then Sen. Henry Lackey, told Wartman that he didn't know why. "I don't remember anyone bringing that issue up," said Lackey, now deputy state aviation commissioner. Jon Fleischaker, attorney for the Kentucky Press Association, told Wartman, "Although I don't know for certain, my guess is it was done out of some misguided sense of privacy and some concern for how the thing could be used." He said the law could be challenged on constitutional grounds if a recording is used in a case. "Let's say I'm a defendant who is wrongfully accused and I want to show the public the tape," he said. "Why shouldn't I be able to do that?"

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