D.M. police chief keeps camera policy secret

The Iowa Freedom of Information Council has called on Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert to share with the public the department’s draft policy that will govern the use of officer-worn body cameras and the video from those cameras.

The police department is expected to put the cameras into use this summer.

Thus far, Chief Wingert has refused to share with the public the contents of the department’s policy. He has said the policy will become public after the cameras are put into use.

But Randy Evans, the executive director of the Iowa FOI Council, said in a letter to Chief Wingert, “It’s important that all Des Moines residents be given the opportunity to review and comment on the policy while it is being formulated. Additional citizen feedback would be a benefit to you and Des Moines city officials as you shape the policy. It will be more difficult to change the policy after the cameras are put into service later this year than it would be to incorporate citizen suggestions now.”

Evans’ letter continued: “It’s important for Des Moines to ‘get this right,’ given concerns that have been expressed nationally about the potential for officer-worn body cameras to intrude on the privacy of innocent people, about a lack of public access in some cities to body camera video when officers’ actions are called into question, and about the preservation of videos in cases with high public interest.

“To not allow the public to review and comment on the policy now, before it is implemented, goes against the long tradition in Des Moines city government of encouraging active citizen participation in our government. It is shortsighted to craft a policy like this without giving the people of Des Moines —- and not just a few select groups —- the opportunity to review the policy and provide feedback.”

The letter was sent to Chief Wingert, with a copy to Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders, on March 23. To date, neither has responded to the Iowa FOI Council’s letter.

The full text of the letter can be read here.  Wingert.2016