Carrboro police officers may soon be required to wear cameras on their bodies.
Last year’s incidents in Ferguson and New York invigorated conversations across the nation about police misconduct and racial discrimination. Earlier this month the United States Department of Justice issued a damning report on Ferguson police, finding explicit racial bias among officers against African Americans (including racist emails sent by officers).
At Tuesday’s Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting, Member Michelle Johnson said body cameras will not end police racial profiling. But some think body cameras could reduce police misconduct by recording interactions between officers and the public.
Carrboro officials have been discussing police body cameras for the last half year. Carrboro’s draft policy sets guidelines for use of cameras and management of the video taken.
Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, says body cameras could be a win-win for police and for the public.
“They’ve cut down on public complaints against law enforcement,” said Brook on the impact body cameras have had in other places. “They have been a means of curbing and addressing officer misconduct on those occasions when it does occur.”
But, he said, cameras would work well only if Carrboro has appropriate policies to balance transparency, accountability and privacy.
Brook suggested changes to the current draft policy. He said the policy should require officers to inform people when they’re being recorded.
He also said the policy should prohibit police from using cameras to secretly record “first-amendment activities” that don’t involve a direct interaction with the public.
“I would like for us to be very explicit about the goal of these cameras,” said Alderman Sammy Slade. “They are for transparency and accountability and not surveillance.”
Aldermen and members of the public raised several questions about using the cameras, including whether Carrboro would have to give the recordings to state government authorities and whether school resource officers would wear the cameras.
You can read the draft policy here. Another draft will come by the end of June. Send comments to the board at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy the town clerk at email@example.com.