NC bill demands family access to body camera footage in 5 days

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 300, a wide-ranging criminal justice reform bill.

The committee also adopted an amendment negotiated by Sen. Danny Britt (R-Robeson) and the Legislative Black Caucus to allow a family to view unredacted body camera footage within five business days after a serious police incident that results in death or serious injury.

The amendment permits a law enforcement agency to petition a court if it believes the footage should be redacted in some way (e.g., if the video captures a confidential informant).

“For weeks Senate Republicans have committed to reviewing the current laws related to body-worn camera footage at the appropriate time,” Sen. Britt said. “Families deserve the chance to view footage of a serious incident as soon as possible, and in working with the Legislative Black Caucus we identified reasonable improvements to the existing process.”

Senate Bill 300 includes several bipartisan reforms, including new mental health and wellness strategies training, psychological screenings, and an “early warning” system to track and document the use of force.

“Senate Bill 300 builds upon our efforts to enact historic criminal justice reforms. We’ve taken clear actions to do away with mandatory minimums, make it easier to expunge certain offenses, and put an end to 16- and 17-year-olds being automatically charged as adults in court” Sen. Britt said. “This proposal deals directly with issues plaguing the criminal justice system, including mental health, improving training standards, and decriminalizing certain municipal ordinances. We must remain committed to making these life-changing reforms.”

Here’s what else Senate Bill 300 does:

  • Create a public database of law enforcement officer certification suspensions and revocations.
  • Require all law enforcement officer fingerprints to be entered in state and federal databases.
  • Authorize law enforcement agencies to participate in the FBI’s criminal background check systems.
  • Create a database for law enforcement agencies of “critical incident information” which includes death or serious bodily injury.
  • Require that written notification of Giglio material (credibility issues that would make an officer open to impeachment by the defense in a criminal trial) be reported.
  • Allow health care providers to transport the respondent in an involuntary commitment
  • Provide in-person instruction by mental health professionals and develop policies to encourage officers to utilize available mental health resources.
  • Create an early warning system within each law enforcement agency to monitor officer actions and behaviors that might indicate a problem such as collisions, complaints, and critical incidents.
  • Require the creation of a best practices recruitment guide to encourage diversity.
  • Expand mandatory in-service training for officers to include mental health topics, community policing, minority sensitivity, use of force, and the duty to intervene and report.
  • Create a duty for officers to intervene and report excessive use of force by another officer.
  • Increase penalties for those who resist or obstruct an arrest and while doing so injure a law enforcement officer.

This bill also increases the penalty for rioting for those who cause more than $1,500 in property damage, or those who cause serious bodily injury to another person, or anyone who brandishes a dangerous weapon or uses a dangerous weapon. 

The bill now goes to the Senate Rules Committee for a final hearing before a vote on the Senate floor.

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