JEFFERSON CITY — Two Republican state legislators concerned about privacy issues are trying to restrict public access to videos from any police body cameras. This comes as police departments in Missouri and across the country push to outfit officers with cameras following the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer in Ferguson.

Bills filed by Republicans Rep. Galen Higdon of St. Joseph on Jan. 29 and Sen. Doug Libla of Poplar Bluff on Jan. 28 would exempt footage from police body cameras and dashboard cameras from the state's open records law. Videos could be accessed through a court order.

Libla's bill goes a step further and would prevent the state from requiring police wear cameras, a mandate he said could create a financial burden for some communities.

The bills are in response to a wave of legislation aimed at addressing issues raised following black 18-year-old Michael Brown's August shooting by a white officer, Darren Wilson, which spurred sometimes violent protests.

Several bills filed this session would require Missouri police to wear those cameras, a response to the fact there are no videos of what transpired between Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and Brown.

Protesters and some Democrats have called for body cameras to increase police accountability and to use in cases of alleged police brutality.

Libla said guidelines on body cameras need to be in place to protect privacy as more and more municipalities consider adopting them. Libla said it's "hard to predict everything that could be a problem" with full disclosure of videos, but cited potential misuse of police video of expensive items in someone's home.

Some Democrats also have raised concerns about public access to camera footage.

Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster last week endorsed wider use of body cameras, but said there should be restrictions on media and public access to footage to prevent voyeurism at the expense of privacy for those recorded.

Fellow Democrat Rep. Sharon Pace of St. Louis, who sponsored a bill to require police use of body cameras, said most videos should be open to the public but added that there should be some exemptions to protect individuals' privacy.

Protesters say limiting access would make the body cameras less effective.

John Chasnoff, a St. Louis community activist, said the proposals would "go a long way toward defeating the purpose" of police body cameras — greater public oversight of and faith in law enforcement.

"There are some privacy concerns with body cameras, but they're very specific," he said, citing examples such as video footage recorded in citizens' private homes and witness interviews. "A blanket prohibition on access to any of these records is way too broad."

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