Equipping police with body cameras was supposed to help the public hold law enforcers accountable but like any solution the State agrees to, body cameras turned out to be yet another weapon in the State’s arsenal to expropriate wealth from its subjects. State governments are placing body camera footage under lock and key so it can’t be used by the public:
North Carolina, for example, passed legislation last year excluding body camera video from the public record, so footage is not available through North Carolina’s Public Records Act. That means civilians have no right to view police recordings in the Tar Heel state unless their voice or image was captured in the video.
Louisiana also exempts body camera video from public records laws.
South Carolina will only release body camera footage to criminal defendants and the subjects of recordings.
Kansas classifies body camera video as “criminal investigation documents” available only when investigations are closed. The Topeka Police Department may have wanted positive public relations with the release of its pond rescue video, but if a news outlet had requested that video through Kansas’ Open Records Act, that request would’ve likely been denied.
I stated pretty early on in the body camera debate that the footage would be useless, at least as far as holding the police accountable goes, unless the video was streamed directly to a third-party server that wasn’t under the control of any government entity. However, most body cameras upload their data to services, such as Axon’s evidence.com, that are controlled by parties with a vested interest in pleasing police departments. Combine that setup with the state laws that put the footage outside of the public’s reach and you have another tool that was sold as being good for the people that was actually very bad for them.