North Carolina governor signs law requiring a court order to obtain police body camera footage

North Carolina governor signs law requiring a court order to obtain police body camera footage

[JURIST] North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory [official profile] on Monday signed into law House Bill 972 [text], which states that police camera footage, including body camera footage, is not a matter of public record and proscribes the procedure for release of footage. While members of the public are allowed to request the footage if they meet certain criteria, such as being filmed in the footage or the “personal representative” of someone in the footage, their requests can still be denied and the footage will only be released following a court order. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] have spoken out against the law [press release], stating that “[b]ody 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.”

Policing incidents related to body cameras and racial profiling have been a highly contested issue since the Ferguson, Missouri shooting [BBC report] in 2014 and rekindled by the recent killings of African-American men by police [NYT report; Huffington Post report]. Last year, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law SB 1304 [JURIST report], which includes the Law Enforcement Body Worn Camera Act, establishing sweeping regulations for police officers’ use of body cameras while on duty. In July of last year New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s office announced [JURIST report] that the New Jersey State Police will spend $1.5 million to acquire 1,000 body cameras for troopers, in addition to the implementation of new guidelines aimed at expanding disclosures about investigations of officers’ use of force. Also last year, the self-defense products company TASER International Inc. announced [JURIST report] that Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will be receiving an order of cameras which will be worn by officers to record their actions in the field. Under the sales agreement, TASER would deliver 700 body cameras, costing an estimated $1 million. In 2014 the UN Committee Against Torture urged the US [JURIST report] to open investigations into all cases of police brutality and excessive use of force by police officers.