Police body-cameras are innovative, truth-detecting tools. When it comes to controversial citizen-law enforcement interactions, they can depict an accurate portrayal of the events. No speculation, no controversy-just the truth. And with the truth, the existing tension between law enforcement officials and the general populace can begin to ease. Although these body-cameras are widely used, states such as North Carolina have enacted legislation that severely restricts access to such footage.
North Carolina General Statutes section 132-1.4A does two things. First, it requires individuals captured in footage to seek judicial approval for the disclosure or release of footage. Second, it completely bars access to footage for all other members of the public. Restricting access under section 132-1.4A creates incredible uncertainty as to how the statute interacts with North Carolina's discovery rules. It also stalls public policy goals aimed at easing the tension between law enforcement officers and the public.
To address these concerns, section 132-1.4A must be amended to reflect a more moderate piece of legislation. General disclosure should be the norm in the absence of a few limited exceptions. If no exception applies, the burden must be placed on law enforcement agencies to prove why disclosure should not be permitted. This proposal embodies the purpose behind the initial implementation and utilization of police body cameras- to provide access to the truth.
Taylor Emory, Barring Access to the Truth: North Carolina's Limiting Approach to Police Body-Camera Footage, 41 Campbell L. Rev. 483 (2019).