Recent incidents of police officers turning off their body cams have state lawmakers taking actions. Some wish to see officers being charged with felonies if they turn off their body cameras in bad faith.
According to Tennessee Representative G.A. Hardaway, the goal is to make the law simpler for citizens and officers.
However, the Memphis Police Association calls this bill “counter-productive.”
“We’ve had some incidents in Memphis and in other parts of the nation where body cams were turned off intentionally and evidence was lost,” said Rep. G.A. Hardaway. “Evidence was tampered with.”
Hardaway is now talking about a proposed bill that would make it a felony offense for an officer to turn off or disable a recording device with the intent to obstruct justice.
This comes after two Memphis Police officers were suspended last week for turning off their body cams after the chase and shooting of Martavious Banks in September.
“We feel that any disciplinary action that may arise from violation of that policy is warranted. We don’t feel the behavior should be criminalized. We certainly don’t feel it should raise to the level of being a felony.”
Sgt. Matt Cunningham with the Memphis Police Association says Memphis officers are already worrying about everything going on with a scene and dealing with a possible criminal prosecution, is just too much.
“To add one more stressor to officers, we’ve had a lot of officers say this would be the straw that would break the camel’s back, and they would find another line of work,” said Cunningham.
Hardaway, meanwhile, insists the bill is doing the opposite and making officers’ jobs more stress-free.
“There’s already the ability prosecute for tampering with evidence and that’s a class C felony,” said Hardaway.
The bill would offer the option for a lower Class E felony.
Hardaway says he looks forward to speaking to the Memphis Police Association and urges officers to read the bill for themselves.
If the bill passes, it will take effect July 1st.