Public split over new NC police body camera law set to take effect Saturday

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The controversy surrounding the Charlotte police shooting that left Keith Scott dead brings a new state law into sharp focus.

The law takes effect Saturday and deals with the release of police body camera and dash camera video.

The shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte once again puts the issue of police body video front and center in the public eye.

“You want to balance transparency and accountability with the proper gathering of evidence and information,” John Midgette with the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association said of laws surrounding the footage.

Susanna Birdsong of the North Carolina ACLU said that body cameras offer promise to communities.

“When we think about body cameras and the promise that they offer to our communities, it is the promise of accountability and transparency,” she said.

Beginning Saturday, a state law takes effect that regulates the release of body and dash cam footage. The law says the video can be shown to anyone who is in the video or representatives of that person, including guardians or spouses.

A court order will be required in order to get a copy of the video released to the public or media.

Opponents of the law say it will make it harder for the public to see video of police incidents.

“That just creates a barrier for individuals who want a video to be released to the public, for a police department who says this is something we need to get out to the public in a timely way,” Birdsong said.

Supporters say it increases transparency by creating guidelines, whereas before there were none.

“People have feelings and emotions and sometimes those feelings and emotions are very understandable,” Midgette said. “But that should not decide how much information in a crime or of a police investigation to determine whether there is a crime or not should be based.”

The public is split, too.

“I’m in full support of them being released as soon as possible,” UNC student Courtnay James said.

Raleigh resident Larry Anderson said the videos “shouldn’t be released at all.”

A Charlotte resident, where Keith Scott was shot and killed, said he agrees with the law.

“It should be shown, maybe not to the public, but to whom it may concern,” he said.

Law enforcement agencies can deny requests to see video if they feel it would harm a person’s safety or reputation.

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