Instead of Aiding Civilians, Body Cameras Help the Police File Lawsuits Against Them
The police’s updated policy regarding body cameras worn by police officers, regulates a special procedure, which allows police officers to easily obtain documentation from their body cameras and additional details from investigation files for filing "defamation" lawsuits against civilians (police lawsuits against civilians who criticized them on social media). In contrast, citizens who seek access to the same footage, are required to go through a long and complicated process, and rarely receive the information – even if they themselves are documented therein.
In an appeal we submitted on October 20, 2021 to the Israel Police’s Legal Adviser, along with the Freedom of Information Movement, we demanded that the police repeal the procedure’s new clause, which grants police officers easy access to investigative materials for personal needs, and establish an easy and simple route for citizens documented in body camera footage to access the materials. In the appeal, Attorneys Anne Sucio of ACRI, and Racheli Edri, Director General of the Freedom of Information Movement, claimed that the new arrangement discriminates between police officers and citizens in their right to equal access to justice, and their right to receive information, despite the fact that those same citizens’ privacy is violated by body camera footage, and they should be granted priority in accessing information that concerns them.
The appeal noted that the initial intention of the body camera project – to promote the transparency of police work in engaging with the public – is almost non-existent, whereas the police make unilateral use of the documentation for their own purposes, whether for their spokespeople or to promote their Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). The appeal further noted that the police's support of and assistance of police officers who file "shaming" claims, was out of line, and that the police should have acted to counter the problematic phenomenon of SLAPP lawsuits that infringe on freedom of expression, rather than backing and using them as a pretext to harass critics.