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Shield of police body camera videos tightened

plan to shield the release of video taken from police body cameras is moving through the Senate. But it's been scaled back some amid criticism.

The bill, SB 248, would still shield videos taken in private places from disclosure under open records laws. Sponsor Sen. Chris Smith, D-Ft. Lauderdale, said this is necessary to protect people’s privacy, especially in their own homes.

However, after being amended by the Senate Tuesday, it no longer applies to all medical emergencies, including incidents of police brutality that have endeared body cameras to reformers.

“That would have been overly broad because technically a lot of circumstances that you need to see a video sometimes involves injury,” Smith said Tuesday.

Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation said Monday that the exemptions would be too broad and prevent journalists or members of the public from accessing video evidence in cases of police use of force, such as the shooting in North Charleston, S.C., last week.

Despite these changes, Petersen said Tuesday that the foundation remains opposed to the bill.

“If privacy is a concern,” she wrote in an email, “the bill should be amended to protect any information that would identify a person in the video by obscuring faces, house numbers, etc.”