The constant pattern of outrageous police shootings has demonstrated the need for increased transparency in our police forces (among other things), yet North Carolina somehow decided to take the opposite approach.
Already home to one of the most controversial bills—the anti-transgender legislation that mandates personal bathroom use—North Carolina now gives power to police chiefs and sheriffs to determine whether or not recorded body cam and dash cam footage can be made public.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill on Monday, “herald[ing] the rules as a ‘necessary balance’ between protecting law enforcement and maintaining transparency,” according to Mic. “It's not the politically correct thing to do, at least on my side of the aisle, but it's the right thing to do,” he said.
WRAL-TV details the specifics of who now has access to police videos:
“Viewing a police video will be restricted to only those members of the public who are captured in the video, and then only with the police chief's or sheriff's agreement. The citizen and his or her attorney or other representative could view it but could not copy or photograph it. The law enforcement agency and the local district attorney would also have access to the video.”
Other than law enforcement officials, a judge is reportedly the only individual able to make footage public.
Contrary what McCrory is attempting to claim, this all but eradicates transparency—police now have full power to control whatever narrative they hope to shape.
We’ve already seen what occurs when authorities are given such power. Following the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in Chicago, it was revealed that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanual withheld footage of the shooting for over a year in order to keep it from impacting his reelection campaign.
Police had justified McDonald’s shooting through claims that the teen had a knife and was belligerent. When a judge finally ordered the footage be made public, the reality was that his back was turned when police shot him 16 times.
Even with video evidence, law enforcement receives little to no retribution for unwarranted shootings. McCrory’s legislation only inflames a problem that is already incredibly difficult.
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