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(113,371 posts)
Mon May 3, 2021, 10:04 AM May 2021

Rotten police bodycam law pushed through by NCGOP in 2016.

From Jeff Jackson:
Here's what's going on with police body camera footage in North Carolina, and why it's become such an issue in the case of Andrew Brown in Elizabeth City:
In 2016, then Gov. McCrory signed HB 972 into law. It had passed the state Senate 48-2.
I was one of the 2 who voted against it.

The bill essentially said that bodycam footage would no longer be considered a "public record."
As a result, it created two pathways for people to see the footage.
The first pathway just lets people view the footage in private and does not release it to the public.

The rule on this is the police get to determine who views the footage privately.
So if you think you were mistreated during a traffic stop and you want to see the footage - privately, with no public release - the police essentially get to determine whether or not that happens.

If they say no, you can appeal to court, but the court can only overrule the police if they feel the police “abused their discretion,” which is the highest standard of proof in civil law. So it’s very, very hard to overrule their decision.

The second pathway to seeing the footage is getting it released to the public.
Here, the police don’t have any authority. It’s a 100% judicial decision. So even if the police call for the public release of the footage - as they now are in the case of Andrew Brown - it doesn’t matter. The court makes the decision.
Notably, there’s no timeframe in the law for the court to decide. We’ve seen these decisions take days, weeks, or months.

In the case of Andrew Brown, the judge bizarrely ruled that the media did not have standing (i.e., legal eligibility) to request the release of the footage. There’s nothing in the law about that and there’s clear precedent to the contrary. There are dozens of cases to the contrary. The ruling, to be blunt, was incorrect.

The judge also ruled that the footage will be released in 30-45 days.
That’s very strange given that even the local sheriff is calling for the immediate release of the footage and said he was “disappointed” by the ruling.

What we’re seeing are the actual consequences of a law that stacks the deck against release of footage, and that’s having immediate impacts on the ground in Elizabeth City.
Everyone recognizes that there are interests that need to be balanced here, but when the footage isn’t legally recognized as a public record it means transparency can be treated as an afterthought.
And when transparency gets pushed aside, the public reacts. Suspicion deepens - often with good reason.

Currently, there are several legislative proposals for reforming this law in a way that would allow for a fair and sensible balancing of interests that elevates the concern for transparency. I support those efforts, but I’m also open to new ideas that haven’t been offered yet.
What I’m not open to is doing nothing in the face of a law that obviously isn’t serving the public. We need a sense of urgency about this and I’m ready to work with anyone who cares about getting this right.

- Sen. Jeff Jackson

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