Kansas families fighting for new police body camera laws

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas families are fighting for new laws on police body cameras.

Debate over how soon, and if, Kansas police departments should be required to release body camera footage video to the public in deadly or excessive force investigations was the dominant topic at the statehouse Tuesday.

Law enforcement officials and advocates for two proposed bills requiring the release of video to the media and family members testified in two separate committee hearings.

Senate Bill 31 would require police departments to show the footage to family members of those involved within 24 hours and release the video to the public after 30 days.

House Bill 2571 has the same requirement pertaining to family members but calls for the video to be made available to the public in five days.

“The family is the first people that ought to be able to view the video and have it explained to them,” Olathe Police Chief Steve Menke said. “I think it depends on when DAs, prosecution and internal affairs investigations are completed.  I think it is when video could be released after those potential decisions are made.”

Heather Joyce, sister-in-law to Dominique White, who was fatally shot by two Topeka officers in September testified on behalf of her family.

“Without knowing ourselves what happened, what were we supposed to tell Dominique’s sons when they asked why their father died?” Joyce said during her testimony. “How does our family grieve for our father, son, brother and uncle without answers?”

White’s parents waited two months and endured court proceedings to obtain video of their son’s final moments.

Both bills must be voted out of committee before they can advance to the House or Senate floors.

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