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Kansas Legislature House Sub for Senate Sub for SB 18

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

From: Kansas Confederation of Clubs
RE: Kansas Legislature House Sub for Senate Sub for SB 18
Date: March 8, 2016
Contact: Brian P. Cohoon, Spokesperson (


The Kansas Confederation of Clubs (KSCoC) is a state-wide organization that brings together various motorcycling clubs. These include, but are not limited to, Motorcycle Clubs, Riding Clubs, Christian Motorcycle Clubs, Veterans’ Motorcycle Clubs, Firefighters’ Clubs, and Motorcycle Ministries. We come together to discuss issues and legislation that impact motorcycle riders’ constitutionally protected rights to free association, assembly and speech. In order to safeguard these rights, we take unified action when appropriate to keep the public informed of issues of concern and to communicate our positions on those.

Recently, House Substitute for Senate Substitute for Senate Bill 18 was introduced by the Committee on the Judiciary of the Kansas House of Representatives. This bill intends to automatically classify video and audio recordings produced by Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) body or vehicle cameras as criminal investigation records as defined in KSA 45-217 and therefore exempt from the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA). The KSCoC has concerns about portions of this bill.

The KSCoC opposes making body and vehicle camera recordings exempt from the KORA. This amendment to KSA 45-217 mandates that every recording made by a LEO body or vehicle cam be automatically classified as a criminal investigation record. This would severely curtail public release of such recordings. Proponents of this bill cite privacy concerns as the primary reason for this provision. Ed Klumpp, a law enforcement lobbyist, is quoted as saying, “Our concern has been the confidentiality of information and of people’s lives. People should not have to share that information in open records requests with nosy neighbors.”* While the KSCoC recognizes the need to safeguard individuals’ rights to privacy, we believe that in this case this reasoning is a red herring since the primary purpose of body and vehicle cameras is to provide a record to safeguard an individual’s rights under the 4th 5th and 14th Amendments and to protect LEO’s from bogus claims of violation of those rights.

Other provisions of House Sub to Senate Sub to SB 18 restrict the ability to view or listen to these recordings to subjects of body or vehicle cam recordings, their attorneys, or parents or legal guardians of subjects under 18. There are no provisions for providing copies of these recordings to any individual and no specific authority is provided for members of the media to make independent requests for copy or viewing. We believe this omission severely impacts the public’s right to know, its ability to hold its officials accountable for their actions and flies in the face of the intent of KORA.

“Cameras are primarily intended to facilitate accountability, not just by the chain of command within law enforcement agencies but also by the public,” says Micah Kubic, a lobbyist for ACLU Kansas.* The KSCoC agrees. Classifying LEO body or vehicle cam recordings, regardless of content, as criminal investigation records paints with too broad a brush. By this definition, a recording of a simple traffic stop is classified as a “criminal investigation record”. That this bill renders these confidential and exempt from KORA can lead one to the notion that LEO’s could conceal indiscretions. It could make it easier for some LEO’s to target certain groups for profiling and escape accountability for such actions. This could also make it more difficult to expose illegitimate claims of LEO rights violations.

KSA 45-222(c) provides a procedure for vetting official records where the purpose is limited, before release to the public. It seems it would be a simple change to subject LEO recordings to this vetting process, which would strike a balance between the necessity of keeping some LEO recordings confidential, individual’s privacy concerns and the public’s right to know.

House Sub to Senate Sub to SB 18 does not require LE agencies to hold these recordings for any defined length of time, so they could presumably destroy them immediately after determining their use as criminal investigation records is over. While we understand that evidence can’t be held forever, we think a window of at least two months after an investigation is concluded provides sufficient time for complainants or the media to submit a request for copy. This bill should include this provision as well as allowing for members of the public and media to request copies of these recordings after conclusion of any criminal investigations.

This follows what seems to be a national trend. Approximately 20 states have passed or proposed laws that shelter LEO recordings from public scrutiny. Senate Sub to SB 18 passed the Kansas Senate on a 40-0 vote. The House Committee on the Judiciary has submitted a Committee Report recommending passage of this bill by the full House. The time is short to take action on this critical piece of legislation.

The KSCoC believes it is imperative that transparency by public officials and agencies, to the extent that is possible, be exercised at every opportunity. It is only through this that officials can be held accountable to the public they are intended to serve. The Kansas Confederation of Clubs urges all concerned Kansas citizens to contact their representatives and ask them to vote against passage of House Sub to Senate Sub to SB 18 as currently written

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