Citing a desire to balance “public trust” with the rights and safety of law enforcement officers, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation this week that blocks the release of law enforcement recordings from body cameras or dashboard cameras with limited exceptions.
Surrounded by uniformed officers from across the state, McCrory signed House Bill 972 on Monday in a news conference in Raleigh. The Republican governor said the new law will promote “uniformity, clarity and transparency” by establishing clear standards and procedures for releasing law enforcement recordings.
Critics, including the state’s attorney general, said it could have the opposite effect of minimizing police accountability.
“Technology like dashboard cameras and body cameras can be very helpful, but when used by itself technology can also mislead and misinform, which causes other issues and problems within our community,” McCrory said.
Under HB 972, audio and video captured by police body cameras or dashboard cameras are not public records, meaning the general public has no right to see or obtain copies of them.
A person whose image or voice is captured in the recording may request its disclosure in writing from the law enforcement agency. If granted, only a look at the recording is possible; if someone wants to copy or record the footage, that person has to petition a judge for a court order for its release. If the person is deceased, incapacitated or a minor, a relative or representative can make the request on their behalf. The law makes North Carolina the latest state to regulate access to law enforcement recordings as departments grapple with the new technology.
“At minimum, people recorded on police body cameras should be able to view it and have a copy,” ACLU of North Carolina spokesman Mike Meno said. “This law prevents that by making people go to court to obtain it.”