In the wake of two more black men shot and killed by police, the pressure is on Pat McCrory to keep his word about public accountability and transparency. As this excellent column in The Technician explains, the integrity of our state hangs in the balance.
Police shot and killed 986 people nationwide in 2015 — an average of 2.7 people every day. Some of these incidences were recorded by police car dash cameras, or even by the officers’ own body cameras. Very few of the officers charged with murder were sentenced, however, whether or not there was footage of the killing. In North Carolina, as of last week, there will now be no availability of, nor access to any actual police camera footage.
On June 29, the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB 713 —further restricting North Carolinians from accessing police dash cam or body camera footage by handing more power to the police departments. The bill added body-worn and in-car cameras to the category of “records of criminal investigation” which are not in the public record and can only be released by court order. The bill further requires that those who wish to access such records “must state the date and approximate time of the incident or encounter captured by the body-worn camera or in-car camera or otherwise identify the incident or encounter with reasonable particularity.”
The column continues:
This state has a history of covering up police brutality and video evidence thereof — like in the case of Akiel Denkins and Brandon Bethea — and this new legislation reinforces distrust in the law enforcement officers who have theoretically pledged to keep the community and its citizens as safe as possible. Severely restricting public access to footage that could hold important evidence not only puts citizens at a disadvantage against the law enforcement and the court system, but it also fosters a sense of unease, suspicion and distrust of those working in law enforcement, who are supposed to be unbiased public servants protecting the public.
In the immediate wake of Alton Sterling’s brutal murder by police, we cannot afford to play any more legal games when human lives are at stake. We must stop this structural violence, and transparency within our government and our law enforcement agencies is the most crucial first step.
This debate is taking place against the backdrop of one of Pat McCrory's most frequent campaign promises: the promise of transparency and accountability. Here's that promise, in his own words:
Will the governor keep his word? Or was "his word" just another one of his many lies? We'll find at as soon as he stops hiding from Donald Trump.