Laws vary on releasing body camera footage to public

Published: May 2, 2021 8:38 AM EDT

The recent deputy-involved shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. in North Carolina has sparked questions about making body camera footage available to the public.

Under North Carolina state law, body camera footage is not public record, which means a court order must be filed for its release.

In the Brown case, the judge ruled the video must be released in the next 30 days.

David Thomas, Ph.D., a former police officer and professor of forensic studies at Florida Gulf Coast University, clarified that in some states, a court order is needed. Under Florida law, body camera footage can be kept confidential if it was taken inside a person’s home or a mental health care or social services facility.

Thomas said that despite the police killings we’ve seen in recent years, it’s important to remember there are more than 750,000 officers in the country and these cases do not define all of them.

“When Daunte Wright was getting into his car to ride off, my belief is that she [the officer] had no intention of shooting. My belief is that it was her lack of training even though she is a 26-year-old veteran. It was her lack of training under stressful situations to go for her Taser as opposed to her gun. In that instance, I don’t believe he got shot because he was Black. He got shot because that officer and institution didn’t do quality training,” Thomas said.

He also said a lot has to do with our communities and how we need to invest more in police training. He believes providing more resources to help youth especially can lower crime rates.