Advocates for police reform have been championing the use of body cameras to capture police interactions with the public. This has been a controversial and long-standing conversation which gained national attention after the 2015 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. While these are widely advocated by members of the public, city and state officials as well as police officers have concerns. Among them cited are: cost of the technology, whether or not officers have the right to turn cameras off and on at their discretion and the development of policies which dictate who has access to the footage.
In Greensboro, North Carolina, the issue of who is allowed to view body camera footage is now the center of a heated debate. This is because the arrest of a 15-year-old is in question and his family would like to see the footage to verify his claim that he was mistreated by the police. This is, however, not proving to be an easy task.
[Jose] Charles' violent arrest was captured on police body cameras, and he and his mother want it to be released to the public because they believe it shows police misconduct. Greensboro's City Council voted to support the family's request to have the camera footage released. Greensboro's Police Community Review Board agrees with the family.
But the police department and a local judge have managed to keep the video out of the public's eye, thanks to a new law in North Carolina exempting body camera footage from public records laws.
What’s the purpose of having body cameras if police aren’t required to disclose the footage? That’s the exact opposite outcome advocates have been seeking. This is nothing more than another ridiculous legal layer to shield police from wrongdoing. It does nothing to engender trust among the communities in which they serve and it does not promote any accountability or transparency. Simply put, this allows police to continue to do what they are already doing—without consequence. At a time when relations between police and minority communities are more fraught with tension than ever, this is a dangerous and stupid thing to do.
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