DC Mayor Kind Of, Sort Of Backs Down On Proposal To Exempt Body Cam Video From FOIA Requests
Bowser sent the letter to correct errors and outline amendments she hoped the council would make in her new budget.
In the letter Bowser said she intends to “draft rules and regulations, subject to council approval, before implementing the body worn camera program.”
Okay, sounds good, fair enough.
However, in the same paragraph, just three sentences prior, she said she is “not proposing any amendments or funding changes as part of this (letter).”
This doesn’t make sense, because Bowser includes language in her Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Support Act legislation that allows the city to enact the budget, that also exempts the video footage from Freedom of Information Act regulations.
When asked to clarify if the letter does, in fact, intend to remove the FOIA exemption from the funding request, Bowser spokesman, Michael Czin, directed us back to the letter.
“Second to last page of the errata letter has what you need on that,” he wrote in an email with the letter attached.
Confused, because nowhere in the letter does it mention anything about the FOIA exemption, but it does say the mayor is not “proposing any amendments or funding changes,” we asked again for Czin to clarify.
Czin responded, “we’re committed to working w [sic] the council on rules/ regs before the program is implemented,” before he stopped responding to emails.
Repeated calls for clarification today were not returned.
Wednesday, the D.C. Council moved to cut nearly two thirds of the funding for the program and to drop the mayor’s proposal to exempt the video from FOIA requests.
In a report, Committee Chairman Kenyan McDuffie wrote, “The committee favors public access that balances the serious privacy concerns raised by disclosure, and will only support regulations that strike this balance.”
McDuffie wants to convene a meeting of stakeholders before the body camera program is rolled out or any regulations are put in place.
In a strange twist of logic, another Bowser press officer, LaToya Foster, said the mayor’s proposal to exempt the video from FOIA regulations would somehow “increase accountability and transparency,” while the council’s proposal “takes us two steps backwards.”
“D.C. residents support accountability, and now it’s time for residents to hold council members accountable on body cameras,” she said.
The council will vote on the budget May 27.
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