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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dems: Make Officers Wear Body Cams, Make Footage Public

Posted by on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 8:44 PM

Looking to undo the fact that there is, thanks to former Governor Pat McCrory, a relatively new body camera law on the books in N.C. that requires a court order in order for the public to gain access to footage captured by the devices, a group of state legislators filed a bill Wednesday that would reverse course.

HB 599 would require law enforcement officers "to wear and activate a body-worn camera during interactions with the public" and would also make those recordings public record. The bill would also provide $10 million in matching grant funds to help pay for the devices.

Rep. Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford, said via a news release that body cameras are proven to be effective in providing a more secure environment for residents and officers and argued it is time that "all North Carolinians are guaranteed the same level of protection." And co-sponsor Rep. Bobbie Richardson, D-Franklin and Nash, believes the increased transparency this legislation would demand will create more trust between law enforcement and the public.

And that trust, frankly, doesn't exist in many local communities. In fact, there have been several incidents in recent years that many Triangle residents wish had been captured on body cameras, from the fatal shootings of Frank "Scooter Bug" Clark and Kenneth "Simba" Bailey in Durham to the fatal shooting of Akiel Denkins in Raleigh. In each of those cases, the narrative pushed to the public from law enforcement has conflicted with alleged eyewitness accounts of what unfolded.

The Durham and Raleigh city governments have both begun introducing body cameras into their respective departments. But one of the arguments made against the measure in Durham was that if current law doesn't allow for the public to view the footage, the cameras are pointless from an accountability standpoint.


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