NEFAC, R.I. Advocates Make Policy Recommendations for Police Body Cameras

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition is calling for body-worn cameras to be used consistently among police departments in Rhode Island with timely release of footage and adequate safeguards for constitutionally-protected activity.

“We start from the position that the use of body-worn cameras is a welcome measure for holding police officers and police departments accountable as they exercise the police powers of the state,” wrote NEFAC and other members of Access/RI in a Sept. 23 letter to the Office of the Attorney General.

“That accountability can only be accomplished if the body-worn cameras are used consistently and the footage they capture is released in a timely manner,” they wrote.

Attorney General Peter Neronha is in the process of establishing a statewide policy for the use and operation of police body-worn cameras. The policy will address, among other things, when an officer should activate his or her camera, when footage should be released and how privacy protections should be put in place.

The recommendations made by NEFAC and other Access/RI members include:

• Body-worn cameras should be activated whenever officers interact with the public.
• Technology should be used to automatically turn on the camera any time the officer draws his or her weapon.
• Camera footage should be retained for a minimum of three years or six years when use of force is involved.
• Footage showing uses of force by police should be released within one week.

NEFAC also called for the policy to protect the rights of citizens engaged in peaceful assembly, newsgathering and religious practice.

“Outside the scope of government transparency,” NEFAC wrote, “we have additional concerns about the use of body-worn cameras to deter or chill First Amendment-protected activity. Any policy that is created by your respective office should have sufficient safeguards in place for citizens exercising their constitutional rights.”

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. The coalition regularly writes and joins advocacy letters in cases involving First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

Learn more about how NEFAC is helping to keep police accountable.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Leadership Circle donors and Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Paul and Ann Sagan, The Boston Globe, the Robertson Foundation, WBUR, Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, and the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation.