Greensboro City Council set to discuss releasing body cam footage

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Tuesday night, the Greensboro City Council is set to continue its discussion of releasing police body camera footage to the public. Before the council's regular meeting, members went into a closed session to view body camera video of an officer involved shooting.

In 2014, Officer Timothy Bloch, with Greensboro police, shot Chieu Di Thi Vo as she came toward him with a knife. Vo died from her injuries in the hospital and Bloch was cleared of any wrongdoing in the case. The Vo family has requested to see the video since the shooting and are also viewing it privately Tuesday night.

As of now, the City of Greensboro has no policy on who can see police body camera footage. In the Vo case, city officials, with the permission of Bloch, agreed to let the family see the video. The council will decide whether or not to release the Vo incident video to the public, but has not set a date on when that vote will be taken. Unrelated to the Vo case, the council is currently discussing two proposals on releasing body camera footage. Both are written by Council Member Justin Outling and Mayor Nancy Vaughan.

The first lets those who are in video see it and allows the city council to release the video if they feel it is in the public's interest, as long as (among many things) it does not put any pending investigations, court cases or privacy at risk. The second says anyone may be allowed to request and see the video, but it would fall on the police chief to approve or deny the request. Under this policy, he would also be required (among many things) to consider any ongoing investigations, privacy rights and the desires of those in the recordings.

Community members and retired civil rights attorney and local activist, Lewis Pitts, say neither of the council proposals goes far enough. Pitts says he would like to see body camera video be made a public record. He has crafted his own policy and presented it to the council in past meetings. "The public shouldn't be having to have the burden to see government the presumption should be that we see government and then if there is a way or reason that some of it needs to be redacted then that's a doable way," Pitts explained.

The council could vote on a body camera policy as early as Tuesday night, but their work could be overshadowed by a bill currently in the General Assembly. In short, House Bill 972 would not make body camera video a public record and would leave it up to the top law enforcement official to make a decision on if video should be released. Under HB 972, anyone denied video would have to make an appeal in superior court.

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