When police killings occur– like that of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor–many activists and family members demand to see body camera footage to know what happened. If the footage is released, sometimes government authorities only provide edited versions.
According to the Associated Press, North Carolina is looking to be more transparent with family members after a fatal shooting of a loved one. On Monday, the state Senate committee approved a bill that would grant family members of a person killed by North Carolina law enforcement access to unedited police bodycam footage within 5 days of the incident.
This comes after Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies killed Andrew Brown Jr. on April 21 in Elizabeth City while law enforcement says they attempted to serve him an arrest warrant. According to AP, the sheriff initially allowed Brown’s family to watch a 20 second clip from just one officers body camera. A judge then ruled later that the family could watch less than 20 minutes of nearly two-hour bodycam footage.
Under this new bill things would look a little different. If the family requests to see bodycam footage, law enforcement must allow the family to see unedited video within five days of making the request. However, after reviewing the video privately, a judge may decide whether to allow the family to see all of the video or a portion. If a judge decides the video could ruin someone’s reputation or threaten a legal case, they would use his or her judgment to determine if any of the video could be viewed by the family requesting it. AP reports this process would be repeated for someone who was seriously hurt by law enforcement and has requested to see bodycam footage of the ordeal.
Senator Danny Britt, a sponsor of the bill told AP “I think that if that was my loved one or if that was myself, I would want to see exactly what happened. However, I also believe there may be compelling reasons for that law enforcement agency to restrict what I see and what my family sees.”
This new bill would only apply to family members. Media and members of the public would have to get a judge’s approval to obtain the bodycam footage.