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Critics say body camera bill restricts public rights to see footage

(File/WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Critics of South Carolina's{}new body camera law think it will limit the rights of the public.

The law, which allows police departments to purchase the cameras using public funds, prohibits police agencies from releasing the footage as part of Freedom of Information Act requests.

"It'll cost millions of dollars to put body cams on all police officers in South Carolina," attorney Edward Fenno said. "If the public can't see it, it's not worth as much."Journalists like the Post and Courier's Doug Pardue often use FOIA to inform the public."After all we've seen about what police are doing, you'd think our state would be wise enough to allow the public to have right to see what our police force is doing," he said.Under the new law, only people involved in the incident and those prosecuting it can see the footage.Sponsor Sen. Marlon Kimpson said prosecutors and those involved can choose to share it with the public. Officials with the{}American Civil Liberties Union said the safeguard was necessary."The vast majority of video shouldn't be made available to the public," said South Carolina ACLU Executive Director Victoria Middleton. "There's no public need to know about it. so privacy of the vast majority of people captured on that video that is not controversial should be protected."But critics said Walter Scott's legacy was for better oversight and to hold police accountable.Kimpson also said the original Senate version of the bill had provisions for FOIA but the rights were limited when lawmakers compromised to get the bill passed.

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