DPS chief: Body camera law provides consistency

Posted July 13, 2016

— North Carolina Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry on Wednesday waded into the ongoing debate over a new state law that sets rules for viewing footage from police body cameras and dashboard cameras, saying it creates a consistent system for law enforcement agencies statewide.

Police camera footage has been largely treated as a personnel record, making it virtually impossible to access by third parties. The new law does provide a path to access, but initially that would apply only to people who are captured in a video – and then only with agreement from the local police chief or sheriff. The citizen in question and his or her attorney or other representative could view the footage but could not copy or photograph it.

A District Court judge could allow other parties, such as news organizations or advocacy groups, to view the video if they present valid reasons why they should be allowed to see it and if the judge finds the request doesn't violate seven conditions included in the law, from highly personal content to a potential risk to public safety.

"Uniformity, clarity, transparency and quickness – those are the four things this law provides," Perry said.

The American Civil Liberties Union argues that video recorded by on-duty law enforcement officers should be public record and easy to access.

"It decreases transparency because it gives full discretion to the police department to decide even if the subjects of those recordings are going to be able to see it, and for anybody else, there has to be a court order," said Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina.

Birdsong said seeking a court order adds a burden of time and money that will discourage many people from even trying to obtain a police video.

"There are always costs associated with going to court, especially if you're someone who is not familiar with the process and you might need a lawyer to help wind your way through," she said.

Perry scoffed at that notion, noting that the process is free and that the law expedites the process by requiring a police chief or sheriff to decide within three days whether to allow a video to be seen and requiring judges to quickly rule on any requests to publicly release video.

"You have to wait months sometimes for us to respond pursuant to public records request – sometimes a matter of a year or two – and here, three days and everybody must comply with this," he said. "North Carolina has nothing to hide."


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  • Bobby Broadwell Jul 14, 2016
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    William... oh yes they grasp it just fine! I knew the new law would come and be passed very quickly. It's just exactly like with the cruelty to animals on mega farms...make it illegal to show the wrongdoing. Don't address the real problem...criminalize...or as they say...Kill the messenger. Out of site out of mind.

    Wral's first story on the 6oclock news last night was explaining it's "consistency"..etc... such bunk! If you go along with their twisted reasoning...I have some swamp land to sell ya.

  • William James Jul 14, 2016
    user avatar

    What the police and the governor are not grasping is that transparency is good, its promotes trust and respect, it allows citizens to actually see the scenarios police are faced with and who naturally validate the behavior of Honest/Professional officers, just like it would condemn the actions of incompetent ones. Note the language, that they can deny access to video that is deemed "highly personal content or potential risk to public safety". Pretty much any questionable traffic stop, beating, or shooting is highly personal content and could easily lead to negative press, protests, which could escalate to violence between citizens and police! Just saying hiding Video implies Guilt because there would be no reason to withhold a video of an honest officer doing their job in a professional manner.