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Gailliard: Make body camera video public

Posted on May 3, 2021

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Gailliard

Gailliard

State Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, is sponsoring legislation that would require North Carolina law enforcement agencies to release body camera and dashboard camera video recordings upon request after 48 hours since the footage was captured.

Gailliard signed on as a primary sponsor to House Bill 698, which Rep. Amos L. Quick III, D-Guilford, introduced on April 27. Lawmakers held a press conference last week announcing the legislation, which follows Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies’ fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City. The killing sparked protests and calls for authorities to release body camera footage of the encounter. 

“This is not a blue lives vs. Black lives (matter) conversation,” Gailliard said in a news release. “Accountability and transparency is good for everybody. Any areas in our systems that lack accountability is an area already out of control.”

Gailliard and Quick serve on the state’s Task Force for Racial Equity and Criminal Justice, which Gov. Roy Cooper established last June. In December, the task force published 125 recommendations that focused on policies and procedures that members say disproportionately affect communities of color. The panel’s goal is to ensure racial equity in North Carolina’s criminal justice system.

We are asking a family in the middle of preparations for burial to go through a court system to get footage of their loved one.... This is callous,” Quick said in a statement.

State legislators voted in 2016 to exempt body camera and dashboard camera video from the N.C. Public Records Act. The footage was previously considered public record. Current law allows people to petition a Superior Court judge to order a video’s release.

During an April 27 hearing in Pasquotank County, Superior Court Judge Jeffery Foster denied a coalition of media outlets’ petition to release the video in Brown’s shooting. Family members had previously been allowed to view only a 20-second clip from a single body camera, according to The Associated Press.

State Sen. Ben Clark, D-Hoke, crossfiled Quick’s legislation as Senate Bill 510.

BUTTERFIELD SLAMS RULING

While state lawmakers work to change the law authorizing body camera video disclosure, Nash County’s congressman criticized the judge’s decision to deny the release of police footage in Brown’s killing.

“I’m disappointed that Judge Jeff Foster declined to immediately release the video footage of the police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr.,” Butterfield said in an April 27 statement released by his congressional office. “This footage is a public record and there does not appear to be legal justification for withholding it from the public.”

Butterfield noted that the attorney general, governor and state investigators didn’t object to releasing the video.

“Police shootings in America are now an epidemic,” Butterfield said. “The public is losing confidence in our law enforcement and criminal justice system. That’s why Gov. (Roy) Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein and the Pasquotank County sheriff have all called for immediate release of the video footage. Further, the State Bureau of Investigation does not object to its release.”

Butterfield, who served as a Superior Court judge and N.C. Supreme Court justice before his election to Congress, said Foster erred in his ruling on the petition.

“I call on Judge Foster to reconsider his decision to withhold this important information from the public,” Butterfield said. “Withholding the video from public inspection while the investigation is ongoing only leads to suspicion and further erosion of the public’s confidence in our justice system.” 

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