North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed controversial legislation into law on Monday surrounding footage captured by police body cameras and dash cams.
According to ABC News, people who appear in the police videos can ask to view, but cannot physically obtain a copy of the recordings. If the recording is part of an ongoing investigation, law enforcement can deny the request, citing the necessity to protect said person’s personal safety or reputation.
The new law says the video footage is not public or personnel record, The Charlotte Observer reports.
However, if access is denied, the viewer can seek a court order. A judge would only release the footage if there was “compelling public interest,” ABC reports.
According to The Observer, law enforcement agencies who want to release said footage would also have to obtain permission from a Superior Court judge.
McCrory’s approval comes a week after the nation suffered three tragedies involving police: the shooting death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in St. Paul, and the killing of five Dallas officers at a protest honoring Sterling and Castile.
Activists and civil liberty advocates are outraged, saying the law will make it harder to hold officers accountable. More than 3,000 people signed a petition to veto the bill last Friday, ABC News reports.
“People who are filmed by police body cameras should not have to spend time and money to go to court in order to see that footage,” Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement obtained by ABC News. “These barriers are significant and we expect them to drastically reduce any potential this technology had to make law enforcement more accountable to community members.”
But, McCrory doesn’t see it this way and says the bill will increase public safety by improving public trust in the police and honoring the rights of officers.
“If you hold a piece of film for a long period of time, you completely lose the trust of individuals,” the governor said to ABC. “We’ve learned if you immediately release a video, sometimes it distorts the entire picture, which is extremely unfair to our law enforcement officials.”
The bill is set to go into effect on October 1st. It passed a state Senate vote 48-2, while the House voted 88-20.
This is the second recent legislative controversy for McCrory; the governor signed a bill in March that banned transgender individuals from using public bathrooms aligned with the sex with which they identify.