North Carolina Passes Law to Limit Access to Police Videos

North Carolina Passes Law to Limit Access to Police Videos

Transparency is key when it comes to inspiring trust. With such an important part of society like the police force it is crucial for average citizens to genuinely believe that the police are doing their best. The communities that are served by the police should feel that they are there for their best interest.

Recent events have shaken the public’s confidence in the police.  Surveys show that people have concerns regarding how well the police does its job. They also have concerns regarding how well officials manage the police force.

Police Videos Detrimental to the Police

Like much of the rest of our world, policing has gone digital. Police officers make use of technology in their everyday work. Being able to capture footage has been useful in reviewing certain incidents and making the case in court. So dashboard and body cameras are a step forward in modern policing.

However, free unrestricted access to police video footage is problematic. The media gaining access to police videos has led to a situation where TV stations have the images on a loop, broadcasting them many times a day. Too much exposure to a certain kind of imagery can lead to shifts in public opinion. So, even if it does help the cause of transparency, releasing police videos can be detrimental to the overall image of the police force.

Also, the video only shows one side of the story. With the situation sometimes being different than what can be seen on the video. Many thinks come into play when a police officer makes a snap judgement call. Even with debating a high-profile case on TV, the viewing audience doesn’t understand the details of the situation from a professional point of view.

But imagery is enough to anger a community. As has been the case in Charlotte, North Carolina. An African American man, Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by the police last week. The police video from the incident got a significant amount of air time. After the incident was widely talked about in the media, protests started in Charlotte, North Carolina. Soon enough, the protests had turned violent.

A Law to Limit Access

To try to prevent situations where public opinion is swayed by police video footage, a new law is going to take effect in North Carolina. Basically, it restricts public access to video footage shot by dashboard cameras and body cameras. With this law in place it is going to be more difficult for the media and the public to have a look at police video.

When it is going to take effect, the new law is going to state that video footage from police bodycams is not part of the public record. As such, the police are under no obligation to release the video. This means that it is up to the heads of law enforcement agencies to decide whether or not to disclose the video footage.

North Carolina isn’t alone in enacting such a law. The state joins another two dozen states, plus the District of Columbia. They have laws in place that limit access to police videos. It is a move that has taken place in the past two years. At a state level, legislation was passed that impacted public records laws.


Image source: here.