by Daniel Chekal
With the countless numbers of fatal police shootings and multiple accounts of an incident, we can only rely upon the evidence displayed by video recordings of spectators, local CCTVs, police body cams, and police dash cams.
Dismally, the limited number of reliable sources can still not be enough to accuse an officer for possibly assessing the situation wrongfully as a life-or-death situation.
From the first accounts of the Trayvon Martin case to the recent fatality of Kenith Lamont Scott last Tuesday, September 20th, we see that for every year that passes, there is an increasing number of fatalities per year. To solve disputes on the judgment we must rely upon witness’ accounts and video evidence.
Unfortunately, that’s about to change in North Carolina, which now joins a dozen states, with another dozen still contemplating the addition of this law, due to the new law that was passed on July 11th, 2016: the HB 972. House Bill 972 will go into effect as of October 1 will limit the police recordings to be private and only viewable to those who can be seen or heard in the video, along with their personal representatives. To view it, they must file a request, where if it is denied, they must spend time and money to go before the state’s superior court. Those who do get access to the videos can only view it and cannot create a copy of this evidence since the police footage will be considered as part of an officer’s personal file and therefore, private.
What this means for future incidents is that to obtain evidence to accuse these law enforcement officers for misconduct, the victims’ families and prosecutors must jump through hoops to get this footage, which will mostly likely be modified in some way.
However, governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolinian government argue that they should, in fact, limit the accessibility of films by portraying the example of officers responding to a domestic violence incident where they find the wife to be unclothed. Although there must be some limitation as to what can be shown to the public, records regarding a valid trial of police misconduct should be a part public records. After the massacre of five officers in Dallas on July 7th, questions about officers’ safety arose and resulted in additional protection for law enforcement: the Blue Alert System, which helps catch those who plan on attacking officers. Conversely, according to the FBI, having body and dash cams actually lowered the number of officers being killed in the line of duty per year.
All in all, the debate over police videos will continue in future governor elections and will be a very expensive and touchy point to discuss.