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Evolving Body Camera Laws: A Tool for Restoring Community Trust

The call for accountability and transparency in policing has grown louder over the years. This has led many states to implement laws that improve how agencies share information about their operations and interactions with the public. As technology has advanced, body-worn and in-vehicle dash cameras have become an important part of this initiative. This equipment and its software have helped to improve officer safety and provide incident footage and audio for the community to review.

The Continued Evolution of Body-Worn Cameras and Laws 

Over 80% of large departments in the U.S. have acquired body-worn cameras for use in the field according to the National Institute of Justice. Most states have enacted privacy laws, such as recording requires two- or all-party consent or exempts police from public records requests. These regulations can be applicable to body-worn cameras in certain cases.

State laws, such as Minnesota’s state statute 13.825, have been in effect for many years. Creating legislation specifically for body-worn cameras continues to expand and range from defining video retention time to dictating where, when and how these cameras can or should be used.

Unfortunately, some of these regulations have caused several agencies to abandon the use of cameras due to cost and staffing concerns. The laws paired with traditional, single-use camera devices are no longer meeting the needs of modern policing due to equipment fatigue and some limitations, such as automatic file uploads. This unique challenge has led to innovative solutions that work with current law enforcement equipment: smartphones. By simplifying camera management and reducing investment, smartphone body-worn and dash cameras can help agencies meet the continually changing legislative landscape. Let's review a few of the regulations that are in effect or being introduced in North America to better understand the different approaches being taken.

United States 

  • Federal: Alongside states, the Federal government has also taken note of this upsell of regulations and continued law enforcement challenges. In May 2022, the White House issued its Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety. Section 13 of the order contained a key provision outlining a new requirement directing federal agencies to issue improved body-worn camera policies.  

  • California: This state has arguably the most notable law in effect with respect to the disclosure of body camera footage, Assembly Bill 748. It requires state and local police agencies to release all camera footage (video and audio) relating to a “critical incident” within 45 days. As one might expect, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when disclosure would endanger the safety of a confidential source. However, those exceptional circumstances are limited. In addition, agencies must redact the footage to protect the privacy of relevant individuals. 

  • New York and Colorado: There have been a variety of state laws passed in the past few years, such as N.Y. Executive Law, Article 11, § 234 and Colorado Senate Bill 20-217, involving police cameras.  

  • OhioHouse Bill 367, if passed, would require the use of body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras by peace officers to increase transparency and accountability. The agency would have to publicly release unedited video and recordings of the alleged incident within 21 days.  

  • Illinois: The SAFE-T Act, HB 3653, is an amendment to the original 2016 Illinois Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act. This legislation goes into effect in 2025 and will require all police officers in the state to wear body-worn cameras as a way to increase transparency and accountability between law enforcement and the public. 


The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada published "Guidance for the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs) by law enforcement authorities” in February 2015. It defines how the BWC videos should be handled under Canadian privacy laws. Over 36 agencies have deployed cameras including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). This well-known federal agency has a program to equip officers with body-worn cameras while on duty as part of a larger initiative to improve accountability, conduct and transparency.

Technology and Trust 

The demand for accountability and transparency in law enforcement has significantly increased in recent years. This has prompted numerous regulations to be enacted, aimed at enhancing the disclosure of information regarding police activities and their engagement with the community. Body-worn and dash cameras have become an important part of this initiative for greater communication, coordination and situational awareness during an incident.

Smartphone-based cameras offer a significant opportunity for device consolidation and leveraging rapid advancements in hardware and software technology. Agencies can reduce equipment fatigue, enhance responder safety and simplify management processes. These solutions add greater functionality to accommodate the requirements of modern policing and help future-proof these programs to meet the continually evolving legislation. 

Discover how Versaterm Visual Labs harnesses both the connectivity and computational power of the smartphone, or meet with our experts today. 


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