ACLU warns public over newly passed Georgia body camera bill

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is cautioning the public over legislation allowing police to use body cameras on private property, saying the measure could infringe on the rights of innocent people in their own homes.

Senate Bill 94, which awaits a signature from Gov. Nathan Deal, passed last week on the final day of work for the Georgia Legislature. While the bill originally started as something else, the state Senate swapped out much of its content to expand where law enforcement officers could record their actions.

Marvin Lim, a lobbyist for the ACLU of Georgia, said the group does not oppose the concept entirely, since police can use body cameras to hold officers accountable and provide credible evidence during investigations. In cases of non-emergencies, however, where there is no reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, Lim said the ACLU would have preferred that police be required to ask for consent to record in private places.

“We all recognize that the home is the most sacred of private properties,” Lim said. Someone not suspected of wrongdoing, Lim said, “could be, for example, a potential witness who seeks actually to be helpful to law enforcement. It could also be a person who voluntarily seeks to report him or herself as a victim of a crime. Privacy should particularly be respected in that instance.”

The ACLU tried unsuccessfully to get the bill amended before passage.

SB 94 would also for the first time require all law enforcement agencies in the state to adopt “best practices” about how victims pick alleged criminals out of a lineup. The bill essentially sets a minimum for those efforts, with the aim to reduce outside factors that inadvertently influence a witness’ decision.

Deal must sign bills or veto them within 40 days of the Legislature’s end on April 2 or they automatically become law.

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