New police camera law has people talking

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill into law this week that would make it so police footage from things like body cams or car cams are neither public nor personnel records.

Elizabethtown attorney Michael McGuinness said he has been representing law enforcement officers in the courtroom for 28 years. Recently he has represented James Coley Johnson and Bryon Vassey in high profile local cases.

Although McGuinness said he has not had a chance to go through the specifics of this new state law, he said he has always been in favor of body cameras. He said he understands suspects, families, lawyers and the media wanting to view recordings as soon as possible, but he said if that footage is released prior to a hearing, it can make it difficult to find juries without a bias on a case.

“The way a trial is supposed to work is there should not be any preconceived notion about, and it applies to all defendants not just police officers. So that is at least one of the bigger problems sometimes, that if we had every car cam video immediately disclosed that it could create a lot of havoc in courtrooms,” said McGuinness.

But not everyone agrees, some think the law prevents transparency in law enforcement officials.

“Sometimes things happen that shouldn’t happen and everybody should see what’s going on. I think it’s appalling. Human rights are human rights and we should all be entitled to the same thing,” said Sandra Beresh.

The new law will go into effects on October 1.

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