Police body-cam footage not public record under NC bill
Posted April 23, 2015
Updated April 24, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Video from cameras worn by North Carolina law enforcement officers and cameras placed in their patrol vehicles would be considered investigative records that would require a court order to be publicly released under a bill the state House passed Thursday.
Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, said the state needs to study how to handle video footage of law enforcement activities more thoroughly but that House Bill 713 is an initial step at addressing the issue, which has exploded on the national scene in recent months in several officer-involved shootings.
"This is not just talking about a camera on a cop," said Faircloth, noting the cost of video systems, storing footage and the rights of the public and officers need to be weighed.
Under state law, law enforcement investigative records, such as lab test results and witness statements, aren't considered public records. The bill would add body-camera and dashboard-camera footage to that list.
A law enforcement agency could release video on its own, and because the footage could be considered a personnel record, Faircloth said the bill would allow the release without the consent of any officer shown in it.
Absent the approval of any agency, however, a court order would be needed to publicly release footage. Faircloth said the bill would require that people who obtain such an order to give as specific a day and time as possible for their request, so agencies don't have to comb through hours of footage.
Defense attorneys would have access to the video for criminal trials, he said.
"We need to move forward" on the issue, he said, "but we need to do it in a very measured and intelligent way."