Under the Dome

Cooper wants greater public access to police body cam footage

A body camera on his shoulder records Garner police officer Kevin Murray's interaction with a motorist as he makes a traffic stop on his patrol in Garner on April 8, 2015.
A body camera on his shoulder records Garner police officer Kevin Murray's interaction with a motorist as he makes a traffic stop on his patrol in Garner on April 8, 2015. cseward@newsobserver.com

Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate for governor, criticized the state’s controversial new law restricting public access to police body camera and dashboard camera recordings.

Cooper said Tuesday he would have preferred a bill that started with the presumption that the information is public, then added exceptions for situations such as protection of witnesses, informants and investigations.

“I think the legislation could have been a lot better and would have negotiated, I think, a better piece of legislation,” Cooper said.

As the bill was debated, state House members offered amendments that would have loosened restrictions on release of the footage, but those efforts failed.

The law Gov. Pat McCrory signed Monday shields police camera and dashboard camera footage from public view unless a Superior Court judge allows its release. McCrory is a Republican running for a second term. The law is effective Oct. 1.

Subjects of the recordings would be able to view footage if a top law enforcement official or a judge consents.

There were growing calls for McCrory to veto the bill. He signed it days after witness footage of police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana gained wide circulation and five police officers in Dallas, Texas, were fatally shot by a black gunman targeting white cops.

McCrory said the law walks a fine line and ensures transparency.

Cooper said the legislature may need to make improvements. “We need to see how this works first and how the courts are going to react to this,” he said.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

  Comments