Police-worn body cameras would be regulated for the first time in North Carolina under legislation that will be considered this year.
A legislative committee on Thursday approved a draft bill that would not require law enforcement agencies to use the cameras, but would leave it up to each department in consultation with city or county officials.
“Technology is moving rapidly,” said Rep. John Faircloth, a Republican from High Point who is a former police chief, who added that many agencies already use the equipment. “We are making policy recommendations with some rules, leaving day-to-day decisions to local or state law enforcement.”
Videos from police cameras have played a prominent role in recent years in several high-profile officer-involved shootings across the country.
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The legislature included $2.5 million in its budget for the current fiscal year to offer body camera grants of up to $100,000 each to law enforcement agencies.
Footage from body or dashboard cameras would not be considered public records, but the bill would establish a procedure for them to be released. The determination of what is released would be left to the chief law enforcement officer in an agency.
Anyone who requests a copy of a body cam video could appeal to a superior court in the region if they are denied a copy or do not receive a response within 48 hours. A police chief or sheriff would have to give one of a set of reasons, outlined in the bill, for a denial. Those reasons include a compelling public interest, whether disclosure would reveal highly sensitive personal information, or whether it would create a serious threat to the administration of justice.
The appeal would have to be given priority in court, and there is a provision for a voluntary mediation conference.
Anyone depicted in a police video would be allowed to obtain a copy. Requests would have to be specific, and not cover a wide time span.
Additional minor work on the bill once it’s filed is expected. If it clears the General Assembly and is signed by the governor, the bill would take effect this year.