In the latest fatal civilian shooting to make national headlines, Charlotte, North Carolina police have shot a man named Keith Scott. Scott, like many victims of police shootings, was a black man whom his family claims was unarmed and not a threat. While protesters have filled the streets in the last few weeks, a new North Carolina law took effect on October 1 that will make it much harder for the public to see the footage of what happened to Keith Scott.
The law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature runs counter to a nationwide trend in which some cities are actually trying to push transparency to earn back the public’s trust. It would make any video footage by body cam and dashboard cam not a matter of public record. This would mean that only a judge can release it, and the footage would be exempt from public information act requests.
Calls for the release of the video have become the crux of the protests that ensued after the news of Scott’s death broke. The Charlotte police department refused to release the video to the public. As of September 24, Keith Scott’s family released the first and only publicly available video which was recorded by cell phone by Scott’s wife.
All Police Body Camera Bills Have Failed in California This Year
For the second straight year, California’s legislature has failed to pass any major legislation regulating police body cams. Multiple bills, both to boost transparency and restrict access, have failed to garner support from lawmakers.
Police departments may adopt their own voluntary policies on police cams. The LAPD became the largest agency in the country to adopt body cameras with an announcement earlier this year, after four years of study and a pilot funded by donations. All 7,000 LAPD officers will wear body cams by the end of 2016, at the cost of $1.5 million.
Police Cam Footage Exempt
Standards for the release and storage of footage vary across departments across the country. As criminal evidence, police body cam footage is also currently exempt from California’s state law concerning public records. Currently, three Northern California counties have adopted guidelines for how long the video footage should be kept, but individual departments are not obligated to follow them. Attorneys who represent law enforcement recommend that departments keep their footage for two years.