Governor Pat McCrory just signed House Bill 972 into law that will block public access to any future police body cam footage. The new law is in direct opposition of many civil liberties groups, who have actually been lobbying and protesting for increased access to body cam footage.
“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,” commented Susanna Birdsong with the North Carolina ACLU.
The current state law doesn’t specifically indicate whether police body cam footage is public record or a personal record, but now, with the new law that will go into effect on October 1st, the footage will neither be public information nor personal record. It will remain the private property of the police department until a court orders that it can be viewed by an outside party.
Police chiefs will also have the option of granting limited access, after considering if disclosure of the footage might harm someone’s reputation or safety, or if its confidentiality is “necessary to protect either an active or inactive internal or criminal investigation or potential internal or criminal investigation.”
The new law will also stipulate that any law enforcement agency who may want to publicly release body cam footage must first obtain a Superior Court judge’s order.
While signing the new law, Governor McCrory stated that, “Technology like dashboard and body cameras can be very helpful, but when used by itself, technology can also mislead and misinform, which also causes other issues and problems within our community. What we need to do is walk that fine line.”
Here is the governor’s full speech:
You can read House Bill 972 in its entirety here on NCLEG.net.