Salt Lake City Mayor Biskupski invites public input on proposed policy for release of police body camera recordings

Biskupski Shares Vision Of Future
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. Photo: Gephardt Daily

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Jan. 30, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski on Monday released the draft of a new government policy to govern the release of police body camera recordings of critical incidents in the city.

The draft was released with an invitation for the public to review and respond to the document during a 30-day comment period.

“In working to set a policy that balances the need for transparency with the legitimate need to provide due process and to protect records during investigations and judicial proceedings, we have participated in deliberative engagement with the City’s Human Rights Commission and other members of the public,” Biskupski said in a prepared statement.

“We recognize the public’s role in further adding to this important process, and invite them to take part by providing additional critical input.”

The new policy in the draft is designed to clarify when and how Salt Lake City will release information on critical incidents, “and sets an expectation on investigating agencies to be transparent and accommodating of the public interest,” a news release states, adding:

Overall, the draft policy is intended to:

  • Balance the competing interests under GRAMA
  • Recognize that transparency to the community is key in critical incident investigations
  • Recognize legitimate law enforcement reasons exist to protect records during investigative and judicial stages
  • Recognize that those reasons can and should be explained to the public
  • Recognize that in critical incidents, additional agencies that are charged under state statute with investigating them, have legitimate investigative interests in the body cam recordings
  • Continually weigh and balance the competing interests throughout the process and recognize that at a certain point (180 days maximum) the records must be made public
  • Deal only with body cam recordings of critical incidents (police shootings, etc.)

Biskupski will seek input from the general public, and from ACLU of Utah, the Salt Lake Police Officers Association, Community Activist Group, the Valley Police Chiefs, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, and others, the statement said.

Reviews and comments will be welcomed from 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, through March 1. To see the document when it is posted, click this link. People may also contact the Mayor’s Office at 801-535-7704 or [email protected]

The proposal of a policy follows public outcry after the controversial police shooting of then 17-year-old Abdi Mohamed on Feb, 27, 2016, and the fact that the body camera video was withheld.

Mohamed, who was holding a metal broomstick when he was shot, was later charged with aggravated assault in the case. A review of the case classified the police shooting of Mohamed as justified.

• • •

A preview of the draft, provided to the news media, follows:


EFFECTIVE DATE: ________________________, 2017

SUBJECT: Disclosure Under GRAMA of Body-Worn Camera Recordings of Officer Involved Critical Incidents


SIGNATURE: ____________________________________ ____________ JACQUELINE M. BISKUPSKI, MAYOR DATE


The Government Records Access and Management Act (“GRAMA”) provides that a City record is public unless otherwise expressly provided by statute.  GRAMA also reflects a legislative intent that favors public access to information when, in the application of GRAMA, countervailing interests in disclosure and in privacy are of equal weight.  

The City recognizes that the public has a strong interest in viewing body-worn camera (“BWC”) recordings of Officer Involved Critical Incidents (“OICIs”).  This Executive Order is intended to prescribe rules to be followed by the SLCPD with respect to the release of BWC recordings of OICIs.

Therefore, the Mayor of Salt Lake City enacts this Executive Order:

  1. Definitions.
    1. Agency or Agencies means any agency investigating an OICI and any agency screening an OICI for charges, including a District Attorney, the Utah Attorney General, or the United States Department of Justice.
    2. Body-Worn Camera (“BWC”) means a digital video recorder worn by police officers for the purpose of recording law enforcement encounters with persons.
    3. Officer Involved Critical Incident (“OICI”) is defined by Utah Code § 76-2-408(1)(d):
  1. The use of a dangerous weapon by an officer against a person that causes injury to any person;
  2. A fatal injury to any person except the officer, resulting from the use of a motor vehicle by an officer;
  3. The death of a person who is in law enforcement custody, but not including deaths that are the result of disease, natural causes, or conditions that have been medically diagnosed prior to the person’s death; or
  4. A fatal injury to a person resulting from the efforts of an officer attempting to prevent a person’s escape from custody, make an arrest, or otherwise gain physical control of a person.
    1. Mayor means the mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, or the mayor’s designee.
    2. Salt Lake City Police Department (“SLCPD”) means the police department of Salt Lake City, Utah.
  1. General Provisions
    1. Weigh Interests; Classification of Record

Subject to any applicable federal, state, or local law, the SLCPD shall determine whether the public’s interest in accessing a particular BWC recording of an OICI outweighs or is equal to the interests favoring restriction of access to that BWC recording.  If the SLCPD’s determination is that the public’s interest in access outweighs or is equal to the interests favoring restriction of access, the SLCPD shall classify the BWC recording as a public record.  In making that determination, the SLCPD shall consider any public safety issues that may be related to the OICI.  

    1. Contact Relevant Agencies

As part of its process in weighing interests, the SLCPD shall contact the relevant Agencies to determine whether they claim a law enforcement interest in classifying the BWC recording as non-public.  

2.3 Agencies Required to Make Non-Public Claim In Writing

If an Agency claims such an interest, then the Agency must make the claim in writing within a reasonable time after the Agency was contacted by the SLCPD, explaining specifically why the BWC recording should not be released.  This claim will be a public record, subject to redaction for any private, controlled, or protected information.  A claim merely parroting GRAMA’s statutory language is insufficient.  GRAMA provisions justifying a claim that the record is non-public might include:

  • “reasonably could be expected to interfere with an investigation” (see Utah Code § 63G-2-305(10)(a));
  • “reasonably could be expected to interfere with audits, disciplinary, or enforcement proceedings (see Utah Code § 63G-2-305(10)(b));
  • “would create a danger of depriving a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial hearing” (see Utah Code  § 63G-2-305(10)(c));
  • “reasonably could be expected to disclose the identity of a source who is not generally known outside of government and, in the case of a record compiled in the course of an investigation, disclose information furnished by a source not generally known outside of government if disclosure would compromise the source” (see Utah Code § 63G-2-305(10)(d)); or
  • “reasonably could be expected to disclose investigative or audit techniques, procedures, policies, or orders not generally known outside of government if disclosure would interfere with enforcement or audit efforts” (see Utah Code § 63G-2-305(10)(e)).
    1. Agency Request; Renewal Requirements

In weighing any claim from an Agency that the BWC recording should be non-public, the SLCPD may consider the proffered explanation, any relevant provision in GRAMA, the anticipated complexity and length of the investigation, whether release would taint or color witness testimony or recollections, public safety issues, or other similar factors.

If, after weighing the aforementioned factors, the SLCPD determines that the record should be made public, the SLCPD will notify the relevant Agencies before publicly releasing the record.

If the SLCPD agrees to classify the BWC recording as non-public based on an Agency’s claim, the SLCPD will review the classification every 30 calendar days.  If, after any 30 calendar day period the Agency fails to renew its request in the manner described in the next paragraph, the SLCPD shall release the BWC recording, subject to any redactions (or segregation) of private, controlled, or protected images or sounds captured on the recording.  

If an Agency seeks to renew its request to maintain the non-public classification, such request must be submitted in writing explaining why an additional 30 calendar days of non-public classification is necessary. This renewal request shall be made public, subject to redaction of any private, controlled, or protected information.  This process may be repeated for a period of up to 180 calendar days after the date of the OICI at issue.  

After 180 calendar days have passed from the date of the OICI, and regardless of whether an investigation has been completed or a criminal or civil case has been instituted, the SLCPD shall release the BWC recording, subject to redaction (or segregation) of any private, controlled, or protected information.  

Date signed by Mayor Jacqueline M. Biskupski:  _____________, 2017.




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