Minneapolis was tense last week after Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that police officers would not face criminal charges in connection with their killing of Jamar Clark along a street in the city.

Imagine the potentially explosive public anger had Freeman also said that the Minneapolis Police Department had body cam video of the shooting, but was keeping it secret.

Such a scenario makes the positions of two key Minnesota legislators and their police union allies puzzling and disturbing. Instead of giving the public another, better view of police conduct, the lawmakers' body cam proposals would deny public access to much or most of future videos shot.

The most restrictive bill comes from Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, chairman of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee. A former police and conservation officer, Cornish would bar the general public from seeing police body cam video — even after a criminal investigation is completed, as in the Clark case.

A companion measure by Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, decrees police body cam video "private" with limited exceptions. The video could be released after an investigation if it captures police use of a weapon or force that causes substantial bodily harm in a "public place," but not use of a weapon or force where there is "a reasonable expectation of privacy."

The bill doesn't define those terms. But presumably a police body cam video of a fatal shooting inside a home or school would be routinely withheld from the general public.

Both the House and Senate bills are stalled at the Legislature, but entrenched opposition to public access to body cam videos endures, raising concern that some version of the restrictive measures could emerge as law.

Even if the bills remain tabled for this year, the question of public access to body cam evidence is certain to grow more pressing.

The police officers involved in the Clark shooting were not wearing body cameras. But Minneapolis recently announced that it will be issuing body cams to officers, joining a growing list of police departments that are adopting the technology.

Burnsville police have operated body cams since 2010 under the state law with no serious problems. Recently, Burnsville police shot and killed a man reported to be armed with a knife and acting erratically in a McDonald's parking lot. Burnsville Police Chief Eric Gieseke, who believes body cams improve police performance and accountability, told the Star Tribune: "This video will be public, and we will do everything we can to release it as soon as possible."

The foes of public access stoke unfounded fears that the cameras will invade citizen privacy if action isn't taken now. The existing Minnesota Data Practices Act already offers substantial privacy safeguards, protecting the data of child-abuse victims, vulnerable adults, victims of sexual assault and other crimes, as well as the identity of juveniles. The law doesn't distinguish among written, photographic or video data, so all of those protections apply to body cam videos.

Given the privacy safeguards already in place, the Legislature would be wise to postpone action this year and take more time to strike the proper balance between protecting privacy and assuring public access. Expectations for improved police accountability will be dashed if the public is virtually walled off from seeing the videos.

And police have much to gain by better accountability. Had Minneapolis officers been wearing body cams last November when Clark was shot, the ensuing investigation may have been completed sooner, with the public's questions answered more decisively.

Pat Doyle and Gary Hill are board members of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, which provides public education on government transparency and information policy. Hill is chairman of the board.