“People who are interacting with a police officer in public shouldn’t have an expectation of privacy,” Jones said.
“There are also times when officers interact with people in their homes at the worst possible moment of their lives,” he said. “I don’t think that needs to be public record.”
Jones recommends law enforcement agencies adopt broad disclosure policies. This could mean classifying video filmed in public places as public record while leaving the discretion to release video filmed on private property to the police.
The Chapel Hill and Carrboro police departments have both been testing body camera models for the past year.
The Durham Police Department recently finished pilot testing two camera models.
Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said in-car camera footage is already treated as investigative evidence, and the department has policy to guide how it is disseminated.
“Our view has been that body cameras would fall under the same policy,” Blue said.
If made into law, the bill would also make public access of footage subject to the discretion of police departments instead of at the discretion of individual officers.
Jones said he believes this is the bill’s only positive aspect.
“The difference is that with the criminal investigative exemption, the department has the discretion to release or withhold the information collected,” he said. “With personnel records, the department no longer has that discretion.”
Each local department would also be responsible with developing their own policy on body camera use and footage disclosure.
“What will be important is that law enforcement agencies treat this footage in a consistent manner,” Blue said.
Marsh said most law enforcement officers he has spoken to support the use of body cameras. He said there are multiple benefits of using the cameras.
“They document evidence and are a great officer training tool,” he said.
“They can be used for preventing and resolving citizen complaints.”
Although most departments are in the early stages of adopting body cameras and policy making, Blue said the necessity of such is apparent.
“It is inevitable that (body cameras) will be everywhere one of these days.”