There has been a push recently to have more police officers use body cameras so that accurate accounts of certain events can be seen by the public. However, a new law in North Carolina says that, in all but a few rare situations, the police don't have to turn over body camera recordings. The law also covers dashboard camera recordings. None of these will be public records in the state.
The bill, known as House Bill 972 (HB972), was signed into law by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. The reasoning given was that officers also have rights to privacy and safety, and that this law could uphold those rights. It was described as a way to balance those rights with overall public trust -- a large part of the reason for using body cameras in the first place. He even said that transparency would be promoted by the law, which would set up distinct procedures that have to be followed to release any of the recordings taken by police.
If someone is recorded, under the new law, he or she can make a written request to see the recording, which can then be granted or denied. Even then, the person won't get a copy. In order to do that, he or she has to ask a judge for a court order.
Those who support the law said that the recent shootings in the United States did not influence this law. They claim they were making the change because no law was on the books yet and departments were distributing footage differently. This gives them a set of rules and regulations to follow.
Going Too Far
Despite the governor's support, others have said the law takes things too far, including North Carolina's attorney general. He said the recordings should generally be public records, with the exception being when the recording is being used in an investigation or needs to remain under wraps to protect the victim of a crime.
Videos and Criminal Allegations
It's important to note that videos can still be used during criminal investigations, so those facing such allegations may be able to use these videos to defend themselves. The law keeps the public from having easy access to all videos when they are not directly involved in the case. If you're facing charges, make sure you know how video and audio evidence can and cannot be used.
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