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The Hermiston Police Department has issued lapel-mounted body cameras to all of its patrol officers. A bill before the Oregon House sets uniform rules for the use of police body cams and the videos they produce.

SALEM — A negotiated bill will set the rules for how police may use body cameras to record their interactions with the public.

Under the bill, which the House Judiciary Committee approved on a 7-2 vote Tuesday, videos can be released if they are determined to be in the public interest — but only if faces are made unidentifiable.

Portland is considering the issue, and the Columbia County sheriff and Hermiston police have decided to equip their officers with them.

Committee Chairman Jeff Barker, a Democrat from Aloha and a retired Portland police lieutenant, said House Bill 2571 does not require agencies to use body cameras. He said its intent is to set uniform rules for agencies that choose to do so.

Officers can activate cameras “continuously” upon reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime or violation is being committed. The cameras can be turned off once an officer’s participation ends.

Officers must announce that a body camera is in use unless doing so would jeopardize the officers’ safety or unreasonably impair a criminal investigation.

A defendant can have access to the video, but such recordings can otherwise be used only for law enforcement purposes. Agencies can use third-party vendors for storage, but the records belong to the agencies.

The bill does provide an exception if public interest in disclosure of the video outweighs the need to shield it. This balancing test is similar to what is applied to other materials under Oregon’s public records law.

But requests must be “reasonably tailored” to the approximate date and time of an incident, and the video must be edited to make all faces unidentifiable.

Disclosure is still barred if a judge orders the sealing of records in a specific case or otherwise puts the video off-limits.

On the committee vote, Republican Reps. Wayne Krieger of Gold Beach and Sherrie Sprenger of Scio joined all five Democrats in favor. Krieger is a retired Oregon State Police trooper, and Sprenger is a former sheriff’s deputy.

Dissenters, both Republicans, were Reps. Andy Olson of Albany — a retired Oregon State Police lieutenant — and Bill Post of Keizer.

The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.

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