Rep. Hanes calls for statewide body cameras

Rep. Hanes calls for statewide body cameras
April 09
00:00 2015

Winston-Salem already has them

N.C. House Rep. Edward “Ed” Hanes has presented a bill to the House that would call for most of the police officers in the state to wear body cameras and to activate them when interacting with residents in certain situations.

House Bill 537, which was filed last week, calls for law enforcement officers in a population with more than 200,000 people to activate body-worn cameras when dealing with the public.

“The thing that we’ve tried to focus on is this necessary interaction between the police and the community and the fact that people on both sides of that argument need to and want to feel like they’re protected. We want to put both sides in the position that they know when they’re interacting with each other, that there is an eye in the sky,” Hanes said.

The bill would also fund the cameras with a $5 million appropriation from grant dollars from the Governors Crime Commission within the Department of Public Safety for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 fiscal years to purchase and maintain the cameras, including the costs related to the retention and storage of recordings captured.

“Obviously, costs associated with purchasing these cameras is a big issue, and what we didn’t want to do was place an unfunded mandate on smaller counties right away. We started with our most populous counties and that 200,000 encompasses about 60 counties,” he said. “We are also going to make it so that if the larger counties, who already have body cameras, can’t use the funds, they can be passed to the smaller counties who might want to participate in the program so they can come in and get in on the funding,” Hanes said.

Hanes said that the bill has received bipartisan support and he is optimistic that it will pass.

“We went to the speaker of the house and the rules chairman to let them know what we were trying to do, and we have the support to move forward on a bill that’s going to get bi-partisan support. They’ve been very open to looking at the issue. We are hoping that we can get several different bills out there, this being one of them, and that they will join us in what we are trying to do here. That’s not telling officers what to do. We are saying ensure the security and interaction for both sides,” Hanes said.

Councilman James Taylor said that he feels the bill is great idea, even though it is not needed for the city.

“Winston-Salem, unlike other cities, is in a unique position. We were one of the first cities in the country to move ahead, voluntarily and purchase body cameras for all of our officers that encounter citizens on the street,” said the chairman of the city’s Public Safety Commission. “Our officers are already equipped with body cameras, so whether the legislation is filed or not, we’ve done the due diligence and what we’re supposed to do as a city to make sure we are out in front with public safety in that regard.”

Police Chief Barry Rountree was given a chance to read over a draft of the bill when Hanes drafted it and provided recommendations to make it acceptable across the state. He said that it would need to be specified who the cameras were for and how they’re to be used in general.

Both Greensboro and Winston-Salem Police already have the cameras. The closest city outside of them with cameras is Charlotte.

“I don’t see a lot of downfalls to it. The larger issues and concerns will be privacy concerns. We have a policy where if there is any interaction with the citizen, we run the camera. That’s going to have to be spelled out clearly,” Rountree said. “Overall, I don’t have a big objection to it.”

Taylor said that transparency seems to be what citizens across the nation are calling for these days, and cameras statewide would help to fulfill that order.

“If they can get other municipalities and towns on board. We’ve already made steps to be transparent and open in how we police our streets,” he said. “I commend Representative Hanes for stepping up and doing this for other municipalities, but we are already geared up and the cameras have been implemented on the streets.”

Hanes said that the success rates across the nation in those departments who have them, shows that the program works.

“We saw that in places like Oakland, California, who’s the first major metropolitan area in the country to implement body cameras. They’ve had a 60 percent reduction in complaints against police officers in the last year and a half. Some of the video footage has shown bad actions from the police officers, and some of the footage has shown bad actions from the residents. What has happened is police officers using their training the way it was supposed to be used and you have citizens who aren’t acting out against the cops. It’s been a complete win-win situation.”

Oakland Police Department’s numbers speak from themselves, according to Hanes.

“We can’t move forward in the community unless law enforcement and the community feel safe in their interactions with one another,” he said. “We really do feel that the body cameras help move us forward.”

If approved, the changes would become effective Jan. 1, 2016, for members and officers of the State Highway Patrol and county law enforcement officers. For the remaining law enforcement officers across the state, the law would become effective Jan. 1, 2017.

About Author

Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors