RALEIGH (WTVD) -- State lawmakers are crossing the aisle to pass a bill that would prevent police video from officers' body cameras and dash cams from becoming public record.
Democrats who don't fully support House Bill 972 call it a good start to something that needs to be done desperately, but they're holding firm that accessibility to police video should be the rule, not the exception.
Rep. Kelly Alexander, (D) Mecklenburg is one of several Democrats who voted for the measure, agreeing with the bill's sponsors that without it, police departments can keep videos under lock and key.
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"(House Bill) 972 is an improvement over the status quo," said Alexander.
"Agencies were hiding behind the fact that these videos were personnel records," said Rep. Allen McNeill, (R) Moore, citing complaints from various stakeholders.
Under the bill, anyone wanting to get a copy of video captured on an officer's body camera or dash cam, even if it involves an incident of public interest, would need a court order.
An amendment proposed by Rep. William Richardson, D-Cumberland tried to flip that provision on its head, presuming all videos public upfront and placing the burden on police departments to keep them private.
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"Absolutely in this state we want the people's business to be open," said Richardson. "It's a basic fundamental right."
After debate among legislators, the amendment was voted down. Sponsors argued there are times when people caught on a police officer's camera, such as minors and police informants, need to be shielded from the public eye.
Although reluctant, Alexander joined other Democrats who voted for the bill that passed its second reading, 87-19, saying it was only one step in a long journey.
"To improve the public's access to the information," he said. "To improve how the public's confidence in the process can go forward."
HB 972 will need to pass a third reading in the house next week before moving on to the Senate.
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