North Carolina’s problematic law regarding access to body cameras has continued to cause concern, just a few days before it goes into effect.
Passed in June by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, House Bill 972 limits who can see body cam footage, from journalists to those who are in the video, ABC News reported in July. The North Carolina General Assembly described the law as “an act to provide that body-worn camera and dashboard camera recordings are not public records.”
The law also states the General Assembly gives the utmost respect to “dedicated law enforcement professionals and private citizens that may appear in the recording,” refuting that the withholding of the footage is solely for the concern of the police department. If the person in the video is deceased, a representative of the estate will have to request the file, despite a chance that it could be denied. If that option occurs, the representative can take the request to the Supreme Court.
Police departments who want to release footage independently will also have to go through a superior court judge. If the footage affects the direction of an investigation or the officer’s reputation, police departments can refuse access to the images or video. The Blue Alert was also silently passed which helps the department find culprits who attack or threaten police officers.
Civil rights activists have bashed the bill, believing it will cause more disparities than transparency between the police and the community. Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, explained to ABC11 family and loved ones shouldn’t have to hunt down footage while in mourning. “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,” she said. “These barriers are significant and we expect them to drastically reduce any potential this technology had to make law enforcement more accountable to community members.”
The law goes into effect Oct. 1, shortly after the death of Keith L. Scott, who was reportedly shot by Officer Brentley Vinson while attempting to serve a warrant. Vinson remains on administrative leave during the internal investigation.