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Friday January 28th

New body cams will be seen in Chapel Hill. Footage will not.

<p>Officer S. Dixon wears a body camera on his left shoulder in the Pit on Wednesday.</p>
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Officer S. Dixon wears a body camera on his left shoulder in the Pit on Wednesday.

Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 972 into law July 11, redefining police body camera footage as a non-public record.

“The bill was written because there was no state law directly governing police body cameras and the agencies deploying them were pretty much making things up as they went,” said N.C. Rep. Allen McNeill, a Republican from Randolph County. McNeill and N.C. Rep. John Faircloth, a Republican from Guilford County, co-sponsored the bill.

According to the law, body camera footage can now only be requested by the person on camera or an official representative of that person. However there is no guarantee that the police department will release the video.

If footage is denied to a particular party, they will have to seek out a court order to get the footage.

The Chapel Hill Police Department recently purchased a number of body cameras that will be used this fall, and spokesperson Lt. Josh Mecimore said the clarification the new law provides was necessary.

“In-car footage is not a considered public record,” Mecimore said. “It was unclear whether body camera footage was different. All this law does is clarify that.”

Despite the reasoning, some groups have their concerns about how the law will restrict the public’s access to body camera footage.

In a statement written by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the group said, “In order to ensure that body cameras are an effective tool to promote transparency and accountability while at the same time protecting law enforcement from frivolous accusations of misconduct, the public must be able to access recordings when the recordings depict a matter of public interest. Under HB972, this access is far from guaranteed.”

Despite these concerns, the ACLU praised the use of body cameras, calling them a win-win for both law enforcement and the public.

With a growing outcry for police transparency, more and more police departments in Orange County have begun to test and implement the use of body cameras. Currently the UNC Department of Public Safety and the Hillsborough Police Department are the only departments in Orange County to use body cameras.

According to Lt. Davis Trimmer of the Hillsborough Police Department, the department has been using body cameras for about a year and a half.

The Carrboro Police Department said they have been evaluating body cameras and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said they do not currently use body cameras.

HB972 will go into effect Oct. 1.

@ryansalch

city@dailytarheel.com



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