Bill Requires Recordings of Deadly Force Situations to Be Released to Family Sooner

March 29, 2021

The bill, which would impact law enforcement data, was passed by a House committee.

A bill that would require quicker release to “next of kin” of video and audio recordings in deadly force situations was heard, amended, and passed (11-8) by the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy on March 25.

HF 1103 (Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul) was referred to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.

The Senate companion, SF 807 (Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis), has been introduced but has not been scheduled for a hearing.

Bill specifics

In situations where a peace officer engages in deadly force that results in an individual’s death, the bill would require that all unedited recordings (from body cameras, squad cameras, or any other recording devices used by officers) be made available to the “next of kin,” legal representative of the next of kin, and the other parent of the individual’s children.

“Next of kin” is defined as an individual’s blood relatives, spouse, stepparents, and stepchildren.

The recordings would be available to these family members: (1) to view within 48 hours after the deadly force encounter, and (2) to be released within 90 days of the incident.

The adopted amendment included the change to 90 days but didn’t remove the 48-hour requirement. Based on testimony, it appears that only the 90-day requirement is meant to apply.

Proponents of the bill said the legislation is needed because family members of individuals involved in deadly force encounters with peace officers do not have access to information and are left with uncertainty.

Local government concerns

Richfield Chief of Police Jay Henthorne, representing the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, testified that video and audio data are evidence, and releasing this evidence early could compromise any subsequent criminal or employment investigation, particularly in deadly force circumstances.

Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie, representing the Minnesota Sheriffs Association, also testified in opposition to the bill. He shared information about the extensive negotiations of the original body camera law in 2016, which represented many different concerns.

The League of Minnesota Cities also provided written testimony in opposition to the bill.

Read the League’s letter (pdf)

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