Proposed bill would require NC law enforcement to wear body cameras

Posted December 10, 2014 4:52 p.m. EST
Updated December 10, 2014 5:51 p.m. EST

— Members of the Legislative Black Caucus said Wednesday that they expect a bill to be filed when the General Assembly reconvenes in January that would require some, if not all, law enforcement officers in North Carolina to wear body cameras on duty.

The caucus held a forum with law enforcement leaders from across the state, seeking suggestions on what policymakers can do to ensure police-involved killings such as those of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York don't happen in North Carolina.

Sen. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, said lawmakers want to start a dialogue with law enforcement about how to avoid such shootings – and the mass protests and violence that followed each.

"We want to do what we can do to help in both areas, to help law enforcement and to prevent the kinds of unseemly things that's happening across this nation with law enforcement," Parmon said.

She said law enforcement officials have asked for body cameras, but many details would need to be worked out first, such as whether the video and audio recorded by the cameras would be subject to North Carolina's public records law and, if so, how quickly the recordings would be released to the media and members of the public.

Eddie Caldwell, executive vice president and general counsel of the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association, said making body camera recordings public could discourage people from calling for help or give away critical details of crime scenes that investigators often don't reveal.

"When you call 911 and ask for a law enforcement officer to come to your house to assist with a problem you're having, and they have a body camera on, then everything that transpires is going to be recorded," Caldwell said. "(A recording) can't be released instantaneously because the law enforcement agency's going to use that information to help figure out who's giving false information and who actually was at the scene and knows what was happening."

The Legislative Black Caucus also plans to file anti-profiling legislation next year, said Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg.