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Local towns revisit, revise body camera laws

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office announced plans to use body cameras for patrol deputies beginning in early 2018, according to a news release.

Chatham County Investigations captain Chris Cooper said in a news release that there was a question of privacy between employees and the public.  

“Maintaining and storing large amounts of data is expensive as well as time consuming," Cooper stated. "If cameras are never turned off, the sheer volume of storage would cause costs to skyrocket.”

Chatham County's implementation of body cameras will align with many other law enforcement agencies in North Carolina. The Carrboro police department introduced body cameras to its officers in June and currently has access to seven cameras. The Town of Carrboro’s goal is to equip all patrol officers with body cameras by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year. 

Carrboro Police Captain Chris Atack said the town has qualified for a grant through the Department of Justice to fund the purchase of more cameras to outfit the rest of the town’s patrol officers.

To address transparency and the public's right to privacy, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen worked to preemptively adopt a policy of openness in regards to the public’s ability to view footage captured by officers’ body cameras.

“The language we included in the policy established the presumption that the department would be open as possible to allowing people to view videos in which they are included,” Aldermen member Damon Seils said. 

North Carolina law currently dictates that body camera footage can only be acquired through a request by the person on camera or an official representative of that person. If the owner of the footage refuses to release it, filmed individuals can also seek a court order to obtain the footage. 

Atack said officers' body camera usage in Carrboro could present problems for some residents.

“It's odd to see an officer with a camera stuck on their chest, and that could create its own social interaction issues,” he said.

To address this issue, every Carrboro officer who has access to a body-worn camera will receive training on how to use the cameras, how to classify video footage and when to activate the cameras depending on the Town of Carrboro policy. For the Carrboro Police Department, body-worn cameras are not activated at all times due to the lack of storage for footage and the poor battery life of the cameras.

The body camera technology works along the police department’s current in-car camera system.   

“The (body-worn) cameras sync with the cameras in our cars, so a single activation will activate both the in-car camera and the body-worn camera.”

Captain Atack does not anticipate that Town of Carrboro’s officers will have much difficulty adjusting to the new technology once the body cameras are fully implemented. 

“Hopefully by next summer everyone will be in a position where they will be trained and outfitted with the new equipment.”


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