McCrory signs police video bill

Posted 3:27 p.m. Monday
Updated 5:56 p.m. Monday

Gov. Pat McCrory signs legislation on July 11, 2016, that sets rules for access to footage from police body and dashboard cameras.

— Rules for access to video gathered by North Carolina law enforcement agencies were signed into law Monday.

Under current law, many law enforcement agencies classify body camera video as a personnel record, making it almost impossible for the public to access. Dashboard camera video, however, has been more accessible. That will change under the new law, which treats all video the same way. It declares that law enforcement video is not a personnel record, but that it is also not a public record.

Viewing a police video will be restricted to only those members of the public who are captured in the video, and then only with the police chief's or sheriff's agreement. The citizen and his or her attorney or other representative could view it but could not copy or photograph it. The law enforcement agency and the local district attorney would also have access to the video.

A District Court judge could allow other parties to view the video if they present valid reasons why they should be allowed to see it, and if the judge finds the request does not violate seven conditions included in the law, from highly personal content to a potential risk to public safety.

Only a judge could make a police video public.

"We have been trying evaluate how we can deal with technology. How can it help us, and how can we work with it so it doesn't also work against our police officers and public safety officials?" McCrory said, adding that the bill he signed struck the "necessary balance" between a public's right to know and protecting law enforcement officers.

The American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the law, however, saying it won't improve transparency and accountability among law enforcement agencies.

"Body cameras should be a tool to make law enforcement more transparent and accountable to the communities they serve, but this shameful law will make it nearly impossible to achieve those goals," Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement. "People who are filmed by police body cameras should not have to spend time and money to go to court in order to see that footage. These barriers are significant and we expect them to drastically reduce any potential this technology had to make law enforcement more accountable to community members."

The new law also includes a provision that allows cities to establish needle exchange programs to reduce public health risks faced by drug users.

"It's not the politically correct thing to do, at least on my side of the aisle, but it's the right thing to do," McCrory said.

The governor spoke about the shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers in Texas and the two high-profile police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota last week before signing the legislation.

"It was news that shook this nation. It was news that shook communities. It was news that shook law enforcement communities throughout the United States and right here in North Carolina," McCrory said. "Sadly, our country and state have been through these types of situations before. We've learned from them, we've recovered from them and we've united after them. I've seen it first hand as a mayor."


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  • William James Jul 12, 3:47 p.m.
    user avatar

    What was the point of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on body and dash cameras if the public can't view it? Also, if there is a questionable shooting do you really think the public isn't going to demand to see the footage?

  • Fred Garner Jul 12, 12:30 a.m.
    user avatar

    [quote=15844285]Post by RB Redmond[/quote

    It's a "need to know basis " law. And there's some things the general public doesn't need to know. What ever evidentiary value the video has will come out in the trial. THEN you/we can know/see the video.

  • Carl Young Jul 11, 6:42 p.m.
    user avatar

    People need to understand that when it comes to bodycam video, an overly broad public records law would allow ANYBODY to obtain that video and do whatever they wanted with it. Think of that, these are often the most sensitive moments of somebody's life on display for everyone to see. A domestic assault, a DUI, the contents of the inside of somebody's home all on video for the world to see. Would you not want that protected for yourself? Also, I find it ironic how for years the ACLU insisted that law enforcement go to a judge for search warrants as an extra layer of protection for the public yet they don't want that same layer of protection with bodycam footage. The Governor got it right......this time.

  • Aiden Audric Jul 11, 6:37 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Usually added because, in this case, democrats needed something to sweeten the deal a bit.

    I agree that limits need to be placed on accessing these videos, but a lot can happen to evidence before it gets processed through this law. From what I'm hearing, this is a barrier to access the video more than it is to protect the video so it can be properly used.

    I'm sure there will be requests for the videos and they'll either be denied, or redacted just as other 'sensitive' information is sometimes handled. That's when we'll start to understand the implications of all this.

  • Ken Ackerman Jul 11, 5:17 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I think the officers should be able to expect some privacy. They do serve the public in a vital capacity which should be monitored for the protection of the Public AND the Officers. I think it is wise to require a legitimate reason to view the video as well as limiting the audience of the video.

    I can't believe I just said that about something McCrory signed.

  • Jennifer King Jul 11, 4:02 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I totally get that, but I can understand that they don't want graphic videos being circulated, contaminating the jury pool, not to mention video in the public can be edited.

    People in question should have easy, free, and quick access to that video without question.

    Also, why is a section on needle exchange added to this?? I am always suspect when they put unrelated items on the same bill (HB2).

  • RB Redmond Jul 11, 3:57 p.m.
    user avatar

    Thanks governor. OUR tax dollars paid for that equipment, and WE should have ALL access to viewing it.