North Carolina tightening access to police video

By Eric Preisler
Correspondant

On Saturday, Oct. 1, North Carolina implemented a law that makes it necessary for city officials to receive a court order before releasing body or dashboard camera footage of police officers.

North Carolina has become one of about two dozen states, including the District of Columbia, to pass legislation that regulates public records within the past two years. Before this, no uniform law regarding the release of dashboard or body camera footage had governed the state, according to CNN.

Prior to this, law enforcement agencies would make their own rules in regard to tightly regulating the release of footage. Now, videos from law enforcement agencies and police departments will not be considered part of the public record, according to CNN.

Two months ago, Gov. Pat McCrory signed this legislation. In a CNN interview, he argued it’s about “respecting the public, respecting the family and also respecting the constitutional rights of the officer.” McCrory later added that a video is only one piece of evidence that does not include audio, which augments the complexity of a situation. Some have also argued that restrictions are needed for the privacy rights of crime victims.

This follows the controversial killing of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old black man, by an officer who claims Scott stepped out of his car with a gun in his hand and did not obey when asked to drop it. However, attorneys for Scott’s family said the officer’s dashcam shows that Scott was not aggressive, according to CNN.

“We know and we can see with our own eyes what happened in the moments that matter,” said Justin Bamberg, an attorney for the Scott family, in a CNN interview.

Some are concerned with the regulation of information to the public. State Attorney General Roy Cooper criticized the restrictive measures of this law. He argued it “goes too far in preventing access by the public,” in an interview with an ABC affiliate.

Others have felt that this law could prevent police from being held accountable for their actions and that it puts barriers in the way of those looking to seek justice.

“People who are filmed by police body cameras should not have to spend time and money to go to court in order to see that footage,” said Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, according to U.S. News.