Former Police Chief Pushes Through Legislation To Keep Body Cam Footage Out Of The Public's Hands
from the putting-the-'no'-back-in-'North-Carolina' dept
Whatever accountability and transparency could be achieved with the deployment of police body cameras often seems to be undercut by legislative activity. Minnesota legislators, prompted by law enforcement, tried to cut the public out of the process. So did a sheriff-turned-legislator in Michigan. The LAPD preemptively declared its body cam footage would not be considered "public records," which means legislators will have to act to roll back the PD's policy. And in Illinois, a law enforcement agency decided to stop using body cameras altogether because accountability is just too much work.
Over in North Carolina, one legislator is sponsoring a bill that would exempt body cam footage from public records laws. His concern, of course, is the privacy of all involved.
Sponsor Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, said the measure strikes a balance between police accountability and the rights of private citizens, noting that cameras see what officers see, including people in their homes at some of their most difficult moments, such as a domestic violence incident.
There are other interests at play as well.
"There are private things that could be very embarrassing to people, could be hurtful to people, and that doesn't need to be public," said Faircloth, a former police chief.
Misconduct is often embarrassing, but it will be shielded from disclosure along with actual privacy issues. The bill places severe restrictions on who can have access to police video and recordings, as well as how they can access these.
Under the bill, anyone captured in police video or audio could request to see it but would not be allowed to have a copy. No copies of police video could be released to the public unless ordered by a judge.
As bad as this bill is (and it's a signature away from becoming law), it's -- incredibly -- better than the current status quo. As it stands now, police recordings are considered personnel records, which are almost impossible to obtain. So when former police chief Faircloth says his bill will "increase transparency," he isn't lying. But he's also only making the most incremental forward motion -- the kind that doesn't do much to increase accountability and gives law enforcement nearly as many opportunities to withhold recordings completely.