Police body-worn camera access nationwide


  Well over half of states have at least proposed legislation regarding the collection of police body camera footage. There is a range of enacted rules on this issue:

  • On one end of the spectrum, several states have enacted laws delegating to third-parties, the task of drafting collection policies. This would generally be a law enforcement agency that is likely to craft policies more favorable to law enforcement interests than civil liberty considerations.[6]
  • Although some states have proposed legislation that broadly requires police to record in nearly all circumstances, many that set forth collection guidelines take a more moderate approach,[7] requiring recording but enumerating exceptions where recording can be stopped, such as allowing that cameras may be turned off when:
    • The officer is inside a patrol car;
    • A victim or witness requests the camera be turned off;
    • The officer is interacting with a confidential informant;
    • The officer is engaging in community caretaking functions; or
    • A resident of a home requests the camera be turned off  when an officer enters the home under non-exigent circumstances.


  Over half of states have at least proposed legislation regarding retention of police body camera footage. As with collection, there is a wide range of approaches:

  • Several states have enacted or proposed rules that delegate to local police the authority to craft retention requirements, which tend to result in police-friendly provisions. [8]
  • Most states, however, have enacted laws that set specific retention timelines.[9] Recordings are retained for periods ranging from seven days in some to 180 days in the most transparency-minded jurisdictions, with 30 and 90 days as the most frequent periods.
    • Most states  allow for a longer retention period of up to  2 or 3 years for special circumstances, including when:
      • A complaint has been filed associated with the recording;
      • An officer discharged a firearm or used excessive force;
      • Death or great bodily harm resulted from the officer’s conduct;
      • The recording led to detention or arrest;
      • The officer is subject to an investigation;
      • The recording has evidentiary value; or
      • The officer requests that the video be retained for the longer period.