Cop Pulls Over The Wrong Lamborghini Owner



Investigating this story revealed the existence of another, much more significant story, in Oregon. It's the story of how a legislative accident made dash camera footage secret.
Most Oregon State Police (OSP) patrol vehicles are equipped with dash cameras. Paired with wireless microphones, dash cameras create a contemporaneous objective recording of law enforcement encounters, providing footage that supports investigations, prosecutions, training, and accountability while encouraging lawful and respectful interactions between the public and the police. Dash camera recordings are public records in Oregon and they are not exempt from disclosure.
An otherwise-mundane change in OSP’s recording technology has turned that transparency on its head.
In 2015, the Oregon legislature voted to create a conditional public records exemption for police body-worn camera footage. The change came about through HB 2571 (2015), thanks to which ORS 192.345(40) conditionally exempts:
"Audio or video recordings, whether digital or analog, resulting from a law enforcement officer’s operation of a video camera worn upon the officer’s person that records the officer’s interactions with members of the public while the officer is on duty."
The exemption's language is convoluted, but its target is clear: police body-worn camera recordings. No one was trying to restrict access to police dash camera videos.
Unfortunately, they did. Technology changes that were unanticipated in 2015 have put a lid on the meaningful disclosure of state police dash camera footage, and this is happening right now.
Oregon State Police recently finished rolling out body cameras to all of their troopers. Prior to the rollout, any given trooper's dash camera audio came from a wireless microphone carried by the trooper. Now that troopers have body cameras with built-in microphones, the original wireless microphones are redundant. OSP's new body cameras use the body camera audio feed for both the body camera video and the dash camera video.
Two separate video feeds. One body camera audio feed. See the problem?
Because the dash camera audio comes from the body camera microphone, the dash camera audio falls under the body camera audio exemption. It is an “audio… recording… resulting from a law enforcement officer’s operation of a video camera worn upon the officer’s person…” The consequence of that linguistic accident is a dramatic curtailment of public access to police dash camera recordings, which for any given trooper will only be released without sound—from the moment they start using their new body camera. This is not theoretical. OSP has already denied requests for dash camera videos with sound. Because the trooper has a body camera. Which is as absurd as it sounds.
The public today demands transparency in policing, and this unexpected restriction on access to public records has the potential to further erode the public’s trust. I have watched video (with audio...) of the public hearings and work sessions associated with HB 2571. No one saw this coming, and no one asked for it. This is the result of a mistake.
It needs to be fixed.