BLOOMINGTON — A dispute between the owner of a private bus service and the Bloomington Police Department over his access to body camera video of his interaction with officers came to a close Friday with the city’s release of the video.
Lee Eutsey, owner of Magic Bus, asked police for the video after a February 2017 encounter with police officers in downtown Bloomington. In August, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s public access counselor sided with Eutsey and directed the city to turn over the video.
The city’s lawyer Jeff Jurgens said Friday that “after reviewing conflicting interpretations of the (Illinois Freedom of Information) Act with the Public Access Counselor’s Office, the city is now taking measures to release the recording to Mr. Eutsey subject to the required and appropriate redactions.”
The city’s opposition to releasing the video is based on an interpretation by the city’s lawyers of state guidelines for body camera videos. The city’s lawyers claimed such footage was exempt from release under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act unless it had been flagged by police due to a pending complaint, an internal investigation, discharge of a firearm, use of force, or an arrest in an incident involving a death or great bodily harm.
Eutsey maintains he was entitled to the video even though it was not flagged under the guidelines. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
In the nonbinding opinion, Madigan’s office ruled that people depicted on body camera video may request copies under the FOIA, regardless of whether the video has been flagged.
The police department, while still in the testing phase of body cameras, “believes the use of body-worn cameras is vital to 21st century policing and will be a useful tool that allows law enforcement to be more transparent to the public,” said Jurgens.
Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said his department received five or six requests in 2017 for video recorded during its pilot program that began in 2016. Normal police turned over the requested video.