Police video bill passes legislature, sent to governor

A bill that removes all police video, including body cameras, dash cameras and surveillance, from public records passed the House and Senate this week. It creates a limited right of access for people who appear in the videos and allows a superior court judge to release the video if there's a compelling public interest. 

HB972 passed both chambers of the General Assembly this week. It effectively removes all video created by law enforcement – including body cameras, dash camera and surveillance video – from public records. It’s been sent to Gov. Pat McCrory for his consideration. 

If McCrory signs the bill, it will become effective Oct. 1, 2016. 

The bill fixes one problem that has frustrated communities across the state since body cameras first began to be used. Some police departments have claimed that body camera videos are a part of an officer’s personnel file and therefore not subject to release. HB972 makes plain that they are not personnel records. 

It then removes body camera, dash camera and surveillance video from the public record.

The bill creates a limited right of access for people who appear in the videos to see them. The chief law enforcement officer will have discretion to allow the person access, but will not be able to provide them with a copy. If the chief law enforcement officer declines to provide access, a written explanation must be provided. And the person can petition a Superior Court judge for review. 

The bill creates a separate process for release of video. Anyone who wishes to have a video released, including the chief law enforcement officer, must petition a Superior Court judge. If the judge finds that there is a compelling pubilc interest in having the videos released, the court then can order public access. 

Prior to the bill’s passage, body camera, dash camera and surveillance video were public records unless one of the specific exemptions to the public records law applied to that particular video.