Critics view the law as a restriction on civil rights, and note that increasing the difficulty of accessing body cam footage may cause officers to act more recklessly.
“There is no reason this footage should not be public record,” said N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, “It involves public employees carrying out public duties, using publicly funded equipment, while being paid by the public. This information is the very definition of a public record.”
McNeill emphasized that the intention of the bill is not to restrict access to information for those to whom it is applicable. It addresses the problem of North Carolina currently having no concise legal process by which the footage can be accessed, according to McNeill.
“This law simply establishes a set process by which people can access these videos. If you’re depicted in this footage, you have a right to see that video and you can now request it through a more streamlined process,” said McNeill. “The court or agency could refuse to release the footage, but the bill is essentially a list of requirements to release footage or not, and 95 percent of the time, they will.”
Some critics worry that having to go through the judicial system to access footage is an unnecessary obstacle to those depicted in body cam videos.
“They just aren’t considering how wrong it is to place the impetus of accessing this information on the citizen,” said Insko.
“There’s not just the actual time that one must invest in order to navigate the court system, but there’s also the financial burden of having to hire a lawyer, which is something most people would have to do,” she said. “All this does is make it harder for people to be given their rights.”