New NC law requires court order to release body camera footage

Body camera.
Body camera.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – In the wake of this week’s police-involved shooting in Charlotte, controversy has swirled around House Bill 972, a provision passed by the General Assembly this summer that sharply restricts the release of body camera footage.

But what does the law actually say?

Starting Oct. 1, law enforcement agencies aren’t allowed to release footage from body cameras or dashboard cameras, except to other government agencies for law enforcement, administrative or training purposes.

They are allowed to show the footage to people shown or heard in the videos or the representatives of people, living or dead, shown or heard in the videos. Representatives can be parents, guardians, spouses or attorneys.

But law enforcement doesn’t have to show them the video. The law gives them a wide array of reasons to withhold recordings.

Law enforcement agencies can deny requests to view the video to protect potential, current or inactive investigations.

They can also withhold the videos if disclosure to prevent the release of information that “may harm the reputation or jeopardize the safety of a person.” Other reasons include to protect confidential information or “highly sensitive” personal information. And the law allows officials to withhold the videos if “disclosure would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial and orderly adminsitration of justice.”

Even if law enforcement agencies do show people videos, those people aren’t allowed to record and share those videos.

Release of the recordings can only come with a court order.

Law enforcement agencies, people shown or heard in videos and others, including members of the public and the media can all request the release of videos.

Judges can order videos released if they find it’s in the public interest.

But they’re also allowed to consider withholding them for the same reasons law enforcement agencies can cite in refusing to show the videos, including protecting potential investigations and inactive investigations.

The law takes effect Oct. 1, and will apply to all videos, regardless of when they were recorded, that are requested on or after that date.

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