Bill requires law enforcement officers to keep body cams recording while dealing with public

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma legislature is set to kickoff next week . One proposed bill is already turning heads.

It involves something we use a lot here on News 4 – body cam footage.

One state representative wants it to be illegal for a law enforcement officer to not turn on their body cam while interacting with the public.

Police organizations are pushing back.

Rep. Regina Goodwin of District 73 from Tulsa says  she has had constituents in her district tell her that they have had interactions with officers where they go back and try to get body cam footage of the incident and it's nowhere to be found. She says that has to stop.

"Why have body cams if we are not going to use it," Goodwin said.

Goodwin says that is at the core of House Bill 3515, a new piece of legislation she authored. It states if officers have body cams, they must be used "at all times while interacting with the public."

She says most officers are doing the right thing.

"For those other officers that feel that they can turn their body cameras off, they can obscure or hide information that might be instrumental to any kind of investigation we have to have that information," Goodwin said.

"It's just not necessary," Mark Nelson of the OKC Fraternal Order of Police said.

He says there are already guidelines in place to make sure officers turn on their cams when they should.

"If Ms. Goodwin... Representative Goodwin had taken the time to reach out to the FOP and get some knowledge on our involvement in body cam, she probably would have been able to determine that almost every department – if not every department – has discipline," Nelson said.

"There can be consequences, but can and shall are two different things," Goodwin said.

This new bill would make not recording when required a misdemeanor.

"It's a must that there be consequences if you don't do right by the public," Goodwin said.

One of the big questions about the new bill is the cost of storing increased hours of body cam video.

"The hardware is not the extensive cost, it's the storage of the data.  You can imagine if there is a 8, 10 or 12 hour shifts, that camera is rolling the entire time, how many endless hours of data that would be that have to be stored by a municipality and a department," Nelson said.

"Actually there are many cities that have gotten it right. They do have the capacity to store the footage," Goodwin said.

This bill would not mandate new body cams for police that don't have them currently. It would only apply to officers that already have them. If passed, it would take effect in November.

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