Editorials: NC must repair or repeal police body cam law

Two more editorials from major media outlets are blasting the new state law regulating access to video derived from police body cameras that’s set to go into effect on Saturday. This is from an editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “Legislature needs to repeal police cam law”:

“After last week’s shooting in Charlotte, we again urge the legislature to rescind its wrongheaded law that will prevent most police body cam- and dashboard footage from being made public. Transparency is everything in public trust.

In a press release last week, Andy Miller, the president of the N.C. Sheriff Police Alliance, defended the law, stating, ‘The new Body Camera Law … all but eliminates the typical political agendas of different politicians and narrative movement groups.’

But it should be obvious that no political agendas or opinions were eliminated because these recordings were kept out of the public eye. Instead, the withholding made the situation worse….

Law-enforcement officers perform a difficult and sometimes dangerous task that’s necessary for society to function smoothly. For the most part, officers operate with courage and integrity, which video footage can verify.

In a relative few cases, a bad apple misbehaves. Video footage can verify that, also. But not if it’s buried.

It’s not too late for the legislature to repeal this wrongheaded law.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

And this is from a Broadcasting editorial entitled “Outcry over Charlotte police shooting shows NC’s police body cam law needs revision”:

“But now, days before House Bill 972, “Law Enforcement Recordings/No Public Record” becomes effective, significant weaknesses and concerns are all too obvious in this bill passed in a rush.

First, and foremost, the new law says the police videos are NOT public records. Unlike nearly all other information collected by government officials at taxpayer expense that is considered a public record, these recordings are not. So, instead of government officials having to prove why the information should NOT be available, it is taxpayers who must prove, in court, the public has a right to the video.

At a signing ceremony photo-op, McCrory said the new law would “gain the public trust by promoting uniformity, clarity and transparency.” The law does achieve two of the governor’s criteria. Providing uniformity and clarity in how such recordings are handled across the state removes guess work and confusion among the state’s various local and regional public safety agencies.

However, the law utterly fails in its most crucial aspect — transparency.

When the public is denied access to information, there is no transparency, there is no way for taxpayers to independently determine if a version of events described by the accused, witnesses, or law enforcement, is accurate….

The General Assembly should, as soon as possible, revise the law and make sure the recordings are public records with appropriate provisions for citizens to easily gain access to the recordings.

Assuring the public has access to information about the conduct of law enforcement in their community rarely conflicts with the conduct of investigations. But hiding that information can easily damage the hard-earned confidence law enforcement agency seek to develop in their communities.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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