(WGHP) — North Carolina is unique when it comes to body camera video and recordings made by law enforcement in general because they’re not considered public record.
That’s all because of a bill—House Bill 972—signed into law back in 2016 before there were numerous calls from advocates to change it.
The bill is “an act to provide that recordings made by law enforcement agencies are not public records.” “Recordings” are defined as any visual and/or audio recording by a body-worn camera, dashboard camera or any other recording device operated by or on behalf of a law enforcement agency or personnel carrying out law enforcement responsibilities.
Recordings can be released to a person whose voice or image appears in the recording or a representative of that person, but law enforcement can disclose “only those portions of the recording that are relevant to the person’s request.”
In order for recordings to be released to the public, a judge has to issue a court order.
A decision by a judge not to release footage from the fatal deputy-involved shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City last year further fueled calls for that law to be changed. The Greensboro Police Officers Association even wrote a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper at the time calling for “timely, complete and unedited release” of body camera footage.
“We know for a fact that, here in Greensboro, such release has proven that our officers have acted appropriately, consistent with their training and experience and consistent with North Carolina law,” the GPOA said. “If, however, a critical incident occurs and one or more of our members does NOT act appropriately, we want that BWC footage timely released in the same fashion, regardless of what it shows.”
Advocates for the law say it’s in place to ensure due process and the right to a fair trial.