For one more day only, law enforcement dashboard or body-worn video will be considered public record under North Carolina law.
A revision to the state’s public record statute goes into effect Oct. 1 and applies to all requests made on or after that date for the disclosure or release of a recording.
N.C. statute includes all “sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics,” made or received in connection with the transaction of public business by “any agency of North Carolina government,” in its definition of public record.
While the law does exempt certain information used by law enforcement to solve or prevent crime, the increasingly utilized – and controversial – video technology remained open for public inspection upon request.
The General Assembly rewrote the law to address the issue, presenting House Bill 972 to Governor Pat McCrory in June.
The bill specifically states that the recordings are not public record (or personnel records, which are also not public) and addresses under what circumstances a recording may be disclosed.
According to a summary provided by the state legislature, persons who may access a recording include: a person whose image or voice is in the recording, a personal representative who has the consent of that person, the legal guardian of that person, or if the person is deceased or incapacitated.
The “custodial law enforcement agency” decides if the requesting person is authorized, if the recording contains information that is confidential or exempt, “is of a highly sensitive personal nature,” that may harm the reputation or jeopardize the safety of a person, “would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial, and orderly administration of justice,” or if confidentiality is necessary to protect either an active internal or criminal investigation, the bill summary states.
It also includes a provision authorizing the establishment and operation of syringe and needle exchange programs. That portion of the law went into effect July 11.
According to information provided by the Sunshine Center of the N.C. Open Government Coalition, “It would create a limited right of access for people who are captured on those videos to see the portions involving them, but police administrators would ultimately make the decision on what, if any, portions to show them. … It also creates a mechanism where people could seek release of specific videos from a court.”
For more information about the public records law revision visit the Sunshine Center website at http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/communications/ncopengov.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.