Under the Dome

What does AG Roy Cooper think about police bodycam law? Gov. McCrory’s campaign releases recording

Republican Governor Pat McCrory, left, and Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, right
Republican Governor Pat McCrory, left, and Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, right

The state’s new law on police body cameras has again become an issue in the campaign for governor, with Republican incumbent Pat McCrory’s campaign saying that Democratic challenger Roy Cooper told the Fraternal Order of Police one thing about the law and the public something else.

McCrory’s campaign released a recording of Cooper that it said was made during a meeting with the Fraternal Order of Police. Someone is heard asking Cooper about his feelings on the body camera bill.

“I think body camera legislation can be helpful to everybody and I support it,” Cooper said in the recording. He continued, pointing out places where he disagreed with the bill’s details, including the lack of discretion it gives enforcement over decisions to release the footage.

The law goes into effect Saturday.

It will require anyone — including police chiefs and sheriffs — seeking public release of police body camera or dashboard camera footage to obtain a court order.

The footage is rarely released now. Police and sheriff’s departments usually deny requests to release footage, saying it is part of personnel files or investigations.

“Roy Cooper will tell law enforcement one thing behind closed doors, but another thing in front of the media,” said Ricky Diaz, McCrory campaign spokesman, said in a statement. “Did Attorney General Roy Cooper lie to the media or lie to our brave men and women in law enforcement?”

Cooper’s campaign said he didn’t lie to anybody.

“Attorney General Cooper has consistently said he supports the use of body cameras in law enforcement but that the law signed by Governor McCrory doesn't do enough to ensure transparency,” campaign spokesman Ford Porter said in a statement. “Transparency is vital to building trust and respect between law enforcement and the communities they protect. It's a shame that (the) Governor insists on attempting to mislead voters instead of taking responsibility for the law he signed.”

The law passed the legislature overwhelmingly, but had become controversial by the time McCrory signed it. In recent days, the law returned to the spotlight after a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. The police department released some of the body camera and dashboard camera footage Saturday after public pressure to do so, and after Scott’s wife made her video recording public.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner