It would be an understatement to say that 2016 was a whirlwind experience marked by tumultuous elections and polarizing politics. North Carolina saw its share of ups and downs, including the passing of controversial bills like HB 972, which requires a court order to release footage from police dash cams and body cameras -- essentially making it inaccessible to the public. With the recent election of Roy Cooper as governor and the start of a new legislative session, we the undersigned hope we can amend or replace HB 972 within the first 90 days of the administration.
In September 2016, Governor Roy Cooper stated that he believes HB 972 “doesn't do enough to ensure transparency, which is vital to building trust and respect between law enforcement and the communities they protect.” Legislation like HB 972 is harmful because it removes the actions of public servants from the public’s eye and into the discretion of the department, where it is subject to biased review. Lack of trust and excessive force have strained relations between civilians and law enforcement across our nation -- something that will not be solved by withholding the evidence of a fatal shooting or altercation.
Reviewing police footage can help make policing safer and more effective for everyone involved, by identifying when and where police encounters take a wrong turn. Sections of the bill implementing a hypodermic syringe and needle exchange program for the prevention of HIV, AIDS, and other bloodborne diseases must be kept in tact. We, the undersigned, ask for a bill that:
- Removes the court order requirement
- Replaces Superior Court judges with district judges as decision makers, when necessary
- Makes footage readily available to the public at the request of the family in cases of possible misconduct, excessive force, or fatality
35,000 people and counting from NC and across the country have spoken.
We ask the NC General Assembly to amend HB 972 to protect citizens’ right to know in cases of excessive force and fatal shooting. We also ask Governor-elect Cooper to publicly pledge his commitment to ensuring our state drafts legislation that accurately reflects the kind of law enforcement accountability our state needs. North Carolina has an opportunity to be a national example for police accountability and stand at the forefront of new legislation that protects the right to public access of police video. We the undersigned hope that the General Assembly Governor Cooper will act promptly concerning HB 972 and allow footage from police dash cams and body camera to be a part of the public record.
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Email Candace Howze at email@example.com
MORE: See where your state stands on police body-worn cameras and footage.