On Monday (July 11), state Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 972, restricting the release of police body cam and dashboard videos, though officers are not allowed to keep said recordings in their personal files.
“If you hold a piece of film for a long period of time, you completely lose the trust of individuals,” McCrory said adding that “if you immediately release a video, sometimes it distorts the entire picture, which is extremely unfair to our law enforcement officials.”
Under the new law, only civilians who appear in the recordings are allowed to request the footage — pending approval of a police chief and sheriff. If the request is denied, a judge would have final say.
Minnesota and a handful of other states have similar laws. “In North Carolina we’re going to walk that fine line and do the right thing,” McCrory promised.
Activists say the decision will make it that much harder for police to be held accountable in officer-involved shootings.
“Body cameras should be a tool to make law enforcement more transparent and accountable to the communities they serve, but this shameful law will make it nearly impossible to achieve those goals,” said Susanna Birdsong, the North Carolina ACLU’s policy counsel.
North Carolina’s Attorney General Roy Cooper shared the same views. “At a time when people across the country are calling for greater transparency and accountability from law enforcement agencies and officers, Governor McCrory’s bill to keep police body camera footage hidden from the public moves us in the wrong direction,” he said Tuesday (July 12). “In light of so many controversial police shootings – including of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile just last week – body cameras should be a tool to help police be more accountable to the communities they serve. Transparency is part of building trust and Governor McCrory’s bill makes that more difficult.”
The new law goes into effect on Oct. 1.