D.C. Open Government Coalition Hails Council Support for Transparency in 2016 Budget: Assuring Public Access to Police Body Cam Video and Expanding Resources for Open Government Office

In the budget passed Wednesday (27), the D.C. Council agreed to fund police body cameras--but with important differences from the mayor's initial plans.

First, it will happen later this year, slower than the mayor wanted; second, it will happen only after what Council Member Kenyan McDuffie, chair of the Committee on the Judiciary, called  a "measured and thoughtful" approach to assuring public access to the video.  

The Council spending plan included cameras for only half the force, and the Budget Support Act to be considered shortly will mandate a task force of the community and agency officials to draw up the access rules.  

See the Washington Post budget summary story by Aaron Davies and Abigail Hauslohner here.

The mayor had planned a faster roll-out of the cameras, widely discussed as a tool for improved police accountability, and also proposed to exempt all video from public records laws.  The Coalition, the police union and many in the community strongly opposed that exemption, since existing exemptions protect the concerns that have been raised and technical problems once believed to hinder blurring private details can in all likelihood be overcome.  

The budget also adds a new attorney position that doubles the essential resources of the independent D.C. Office of Open Government.

The Office oversees D.C. agencies’ compliance with open meetings and public records laws and develops new policy including 21st century plans for more open government data. 

Since the Council established the Office in 2011 and its first director, Traci Hughes, took office in 2013, expanded staffing has been a legislative priority for the D.C. Open Government Coalition. Additional resources also will support further development of the Office comprehensive one-stop online database or "portal" that allows the public to track all sessions of public bodies covered by the Open Meetings Act.