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Ex-DPS director urges transparency, warns against video secrecy in body-cam bill

Colonel Frank Milstead
Posted at 9:43 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 01:27:13-04

PHOENIX — Arizona's former public safety director supports giving all state troopers body cameras, but he questions the legislature's video secrecy provision in the body camera funding bill.

While the current DPS director declined to comment on pending legislation, retired Colonel Frank Milstead is speaking out about Arizona House Bill 2461.

HB2461 would pay $1.5 million a year for five years to buy the body-worn cameras, video storage space, and other equipment to implement a body-worn camera program at Arizona's Department of Public Safety.

An amendment to the original funding bill would restrict DPS from releasing the body-cam video unless it depicts a criminal act. Critics say that means no video could be shown of non-criminal activities like traffic stops, questioning of witnesses, car crashes, and even alleged trooper misconduct.

"In an age where we are today with all of the distrust, mistrust - whatever the way you want to say that - between segments of the community and policing, let's do everything we can do to be as transparent as possible," said Milstead.

Supporters of the bill say the video restrictions would protect people's privacy, but Milstead believes those concerns are overblown. An Arizona sheriff's department released a deputy's body-cam video of Milstead, who was the DPS director when he was stopped for speeding in his personal vehicle. Milstead initially faced public criticism for breaking the traffic laws his agency enforced, but today he jokes the video went viral with "12-million hits."

"Whether it's on video or it's not on video, the truth is a constant," Milstead said. "You have to be comfortable with that."

The bill is still waiting for final votes in the Arizona Senate and House.