GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — The Greensboro Police Department has released a new policy explaining exactly what information it will release and when in the event of a critical incident like an officer-involved shooting.  

Police Chief John Thompson has been in the position for roughly nine months, and this change is part of his goal to be as transparent as possible with the public, especially when something happens involving one of his officers.  

The policy is new, but the practice isn’t. It outlines what the police department is already doing in writing by setting a clear expectation for what the department does in the event of a critical incident.  

“Our definition [of a critical incident] is an incident where serious injury or loss of life occurs to either somebody in the community or one of our employees,” Thompson said. 

Critical incidents can include things like officer-involved shootings or serious car crashes. They are moments when people often want answers from the police.  

“What we really want to do is be more open and transparent with the community and provide some opportunity to kind of educate on our process and policy,” he said. 

That transparency involves explaining when they can release information like the names of police officers involved in an incident as well as police car camera footage and body-worn camera footage.  

 “It was something I had kind of seen throughout the organization … a little bit of frustration that we had historically tended to sit back and wait until our hand was forced to release information around a critical incident,” Thompson said. 

A Senate bill signed in 2021 changed how body-worn camera footage is released in North Carolina, leaving it up to a superior court judge.  

“It could be [released] to the public, could be to attorneys, could be to elected officials. At that point, it’s basically up to a judge to determine who gets to watch the video and what if any restrictions are placed on that,” he said. 

It’s out of the police chief’s hands. 

“I don’t like the law as it stands. If I had the opportunity, I would absolutely release video more often,” Thompson said.

He says some of his officers still have concerns about releasing video and information like their names. Over 700 of them wear cameras.

“I just met with some officers recently about their names being released related to a critical incident, and their concerns were, ‘Hey, I’ve got kids that are in high school, and they can Google now and see I’m involved with this,’” he said. 

The policy dictates names will be released in critical incidents only when the officer knows about it in advance, the department has taken into account the welfare of the officer and their family, and they’ve completed a psych assessment, and only then, with the chief’s permission.  

“We recognize those concerns exist, and we really want to do what’s best for the officers. I have to balance against what I feel is best for the community,” Thompson said.  

He says it’s a big step for the department. 


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“We’re making this effort so we can better connect and be more transparent with the community,” he said. 

When a judge approves the release of either police car camera footage or body camera footage, the policy dictates it’s handed over to their media relations workers, and they share it with the public after anyone involved in the video is notified.   

To read the full policy, click here.