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You Have The Right to Film Police

Posted on in Legal News

By Molly Rivera, Communications Associate

Here’s what you need to know.

The nationally publicized video recordings of police officers killing Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota are timely and tragic reminders of the power that people carrying smart phones have to document police misconduct.

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RALEIGH – North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory today signed into law HB 972, which allows law enforcement agencies to keep officer worn body camera footage from the public unless ordered to release the footage by a court.

“Body cameras should be a tool to make law enforcement more transparent and accountable to the communities they serve, but this shameful law will make it nearly impossible to achieve those goals,” said Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina. “People who are filmed by police body cameras should not have to spend time and money to go to court in order to see that footage. These barriers are significant and we expect them to drastically reduce any potential this technology had to make law enforcement more accountable to community members.”

Under the new law, body camera and dash camera footage are not public record. Law enforcement agencies have the discretion to release footage to people who are recorded, but if the agency denies a request to disclose the footage, the recorded individual must bring a claim in court to attempt to obtain the footage. There is no mechanism for law enforcement to release videos of public interest to the general public other than through a court order.

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RALEIGH – A bill that would allow law enforcement agencies to shield officer worn body camera footage from the public unless ordered to release the footage by a court was passed by the North Carolina Senate and House today and sent to Governor Pat McCrory for his signature or veto.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina, which has advised many local law enforcement agencies on their body camera policies, opposes HB 972 and is urging the governor to veto the bill.  

“This bill is an affront to transparency and we are urging Governor McCrory to veto it,” said Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina. “Giving law enforcement such broad authority to keep video footage secret – even from individuals who are filmed – will damage law enforcement’s ability to build trust with the public and destroy any potential this technology had to make officers more accountable to the communities they serve. People who are filmed by police body cameras should not have to spend time and money to go to court in order to obtain access to that footage.”

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After months of inaction to repeal HB2 — the sweeping discrimination law that limits protections for LGBT people and others — North Carolina legislators have leaked a so-called "fix" that would leave all of HB2's anti-LGBT measures in place and more.

Tell your representative that a full repeal of HB2 is the only way to stop the damage this discriminatory law is doing to our state.

Under the leaked bill, local governments in North Carolina would still be prohibited from passing measures that would protect LGBT people from discrimination. And rather than remove the harmful provisions that prevent transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender identity, the new proposal would require transgender people to register with the state and obtain an unprecedented "certificate of sex reassignment" to do something as simple as use the restroom.

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