A note from SPJ San Diego’s president Matt Hall:
Greetings from Orlando, where I’ve found Stone IPA at the hotel bar and amazing passion and inspiration in many journalism conversations.
Here are three highlights, starting with a breathtaking one.
1) San Diego SPJ was named this year’s national Society of Professional Journalists’ large pro chapter of the year. It’s the highest honor a chapter can achieve and a testament to our local board’s dedication and to our local membership’s encouragement. In its announcement, national SPJ explained that it honored us for “commitment to SPJ’s mission and exceptional chapter programming.”
The full statement read: “The SPJ San Diego Pro chapter is recognized for its hard work in recruiting and retaining members. It also partnered with the San Diego Diplomacy Council which allowed the chapter to have more diverse programming. San Diego Pro held a successful Awards Contest Banquet this past year with more than 120 journalists in attendance. Some of the programs for 2014 included a resume workshop, mixers with five other journalism clubs and a cryptography party. It also held programs such as ‘Witness to Wildfires: Looking Through a Rear-View Mirror’ and ‘Stop and I’ll shoot: The prevalence of police body cameras,’ with professionals in the community to provide better understanding of key issues and learn how to better report them.”
(Yes, the banquet reference was to last year’s. And yes, the president did make a joke about this year’s during her presentation….)
The chapter of the year honor is a remarkable achievement for a group of hard-working, forward-thinking, passionate journalists. Be proud, San Diego.
2) I was re-elected to the national board of SPJ, where I serve as Region 11 director, working to celebrate, improve and protect professional and student journalists in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada. It’s a two-year term, so I’ll be in the office when the national SPJ conference is in New Orleans in 2016 and in Anaheim, closer to home, in 2017. In that time, I’ll also oversee regional SPJ conferences in Phoenix in 2016 and in San Diego in 2017. The new SPJ national board will be led by President Paul Fletcher, President-Elect (and San Diegan!) Lynn Walsh and Secretary-Treasurer Rebecca Baker. Thank you very much to all who helped elect me.
3) Among the dozen or so resolutions the national membership passed in its closing business session today was one I wrote on behalf of San Diego and Region 11 on police body-worn camera footage. I’m proud to say that the measure passed unanimously. There were some minor edits made on the floor, so what you’ll read below is not the official version but it’s close to — if not exactly how — the final one will read. As you know, this is an issue that I and the San Diego board care deeply about — see Exhibit A and Exhibit B — so I’m grateful to have the support of the region, board and now national membership and am stoked this will be a priority nationally.
Thanks for all your support, San Diego. Onward to another great year. Let’s do good work!
Resolution No. 11: Advocating for the release of police body-worn camera footage
Submitted by: Matthew T. Hall, Region 11 director
WHEREAS, police use of force is dominating national headlines after police shootings in Ferguson, Mo.; Los Angeles; Cleveland; San Diego; North Charleston, South Carolina; Cincinnati and elsewhere in just the past 13 months, and;
WHEREAS, police body-worn cameras are increasingly common in law enforcement agencies nationwide, and;
WHEREAS, more and more police departments, including Boston and Baltimore just days ago, have taken steps to implement body-worn camera pilot programs, and;
WHEREAS, many police agencies cite increased accountability, transparency and public trust as reasons to equip officers with body-worn cameras, and;
WHEREAS, police chiefs in major cities such as San Diego and Los Angeles are now saying they would release footage only in rare cases, if at all, and;
WHEREAS, that position by police chiefs doesn’t seem to jibe with the public records law and runs counter to what the public believes body cameras do, which is provide a record of what happened, and;
WHEREAS, legislators in at least 15 states, including Arizona and California, have introduced bills to exempt police body-worn camera footage from state public records laws or to limit what the public can access, and;
WHEREAS, some law enforcement agencies plan to release police body-worn camera footage taken in public spaces upon request, and;
WHEREAS, other law enforcement agencies, including the Oakland Police Department, are showing police body-worn camera video to members of the media but not releasing the footage to the public; and
WHEREAS, the freedom of the press is a constitutional right and the public’s right to know is something to be fiercely defended;
THEREFORE, be it resolved, that SPJ, in consultation with other journalism organizations, including NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA, NAJA and NLGJA, shall over the next year develop best practices for how police agencies weigh right-to-know considerations against privacy concerns and draft guidelines for when police should release body-worn camera video to the public.