New NC Bill Takes Aim At Law Surrounding the Release Of Police Body Camera Video

CHARLOTTE, NC –  A bill that would make police body camera video public within five days of an incident is making its way through the North Carolina state legislature. The state senate passed a criminal justice reform bill last week and it’s now in the house for debate.

Police body camera video can be essential to an investigation and the truth.

Currently, under a 2016 state law, police body camera or dashboard video is withheld, unless a member of the public petitions a judge for its release.

“It’s an expense to do it. You’ve got to be able to go into court and intelligently argue against a police attorney, and you’ve got to hope that the judge doesn’t have his own built in prejudices,” explained Robert Dawkins, the political director for Action NC.

He says the barriers to get the video should be removed.

“Instead of this stop gap. We need to move straight from it being a personnel file, to public record,” said Dawkins.

An amendment to an omnibus police reform bill would do just that.

“It’s public record unless the police department district attorney can present to a judge within those five days why it shouldn’t be public,” explained Dawkins.

But body camera video is only part of Senate Bill 300.  The bill also includes a provision that would raise the penalty for anyone who incites a riot and participates in damaging property or injuring people or officers.

“This is really about maintaining law and order, but at the same time balancing the rights of the first amendment to free speech,” said House Speaker Tim Moore, when WCCB spoke with him about the bill earlier this month.

Dawkins opposes this provision, as does the North Carolina ACLU.

“It would open the door for law enforcement to abuse protests that they may disagree with by stacking charges,” said Dustin Chicurel-Bayard with the NCACLU.

The criminal justice reform bill also:

– creates a database of law enforcement suspensions.

– Creates a state database of critical incidents.

– Increases mental health training for officers and resources for departments.

– Adds a duty for offices to intervene and report excessive force.

WCCB reached out to the bill’s author late Tuesday and did not hear back by the time the story was posted. The story will be updated with any responses we receive.