By: Erin Smith
The NC General Assembly has passed a bill that will require law enforcement agencies to review their practices when it comes to who can and cannot view footage from body cameras and dashboard cameras, if Gov. Pat McCrory signs the bill into law.
The bill, NC House Bill 972, states that video footage from dashboard cameras and body cameras is not public record and therefore can only be viewed by those who are on the film or their representative.
The new law requires all requests to see video footage to be made in writing to the law enforcement agency, but the agency’s leader has the discretion under the new law to deny a request to view the footage. Any denials issued by the agency must also be given in writing. Denials may be challenged in Superior Court, according to the new law.
NC House Rep. William Brisson voted in support of the measure.
“All of law enforcement is happy with it,” said Rep. Brisson.
House Bill 972 passed the NC House by a vote of 89-19 and it passed in the NC Senate by a vote of 48-2.
Brisson said that the new law will assist law enforcement with their duties and will help with investigations of criminal acts.
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina disagrees. In a press release on their website, Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the group, said, “Giving law enforcement such broad authority to keep video footage secret – even from individuals who are filmed – will damage law enforcement’s ability to build trust with the public and destroy any potential this technology had to make officers more accountable to the communities they serve. People who are filmed by police body cameras should not have to spend time and money to go to court in order to obtain access to that footage.”
Birdsong also calls the new law “problematic” and “an affront to transparency.”
When asked about whether or not media outlets will be allowed to view video footage that may be in question at any time, Rep. Brisson said the only way a media outlet could view it is by making a request through the court system. Under the new law, there is no provision that guides law enforcement agencies on releasing videos that may be of public value.