Durham, N.C. — Steven McNulty is in favor of Durham police officers wearing body cameras – but with stipulations.
“As long as there are reasonable limits on where they are used and the expectation that you can actually request to have the camera turned off if you do want to have a confidential conversation,” he said.
McNulty was one of dozens of residents attending the first of six forums by the Durham Police Department Monday night to receive community input on officers wearing body cameras.
Durham police recently finished 90 days of testing on two different models of body cameras, and department officials said there’s no guarantee that either model will make the cut.
“The cameras are still just solely focused on the citizen,” said Charles Floyd, a Durham resident who also spoke during the forum. “I would also like for it go both ways where you see the interaction that’s happening with the citizen as well as the officer.”
Nationwide debate regarding whether officers should wear body cameras ignited after the Aug. 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer. Subsequent police custody deaths, including Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, have kept the issue of police transparency in the national spotlight.
Various law enforcement agencies across North Carolina have started using body cameras, including Hope Mills, Charlotte, Knightdale, Hillsborough and Wake Forest University police. Other departments are testing body cameras, including Chapel Hill, Garner and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.
Two separate House bills, currently in committee, would require most law enforcement officers in North Carolina to wear body cameras and provide up to $ 10 million to pay for it.
More than 4,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide are using body cameras, but the technology presents issues such as whether the video is public record, how it should be stored and how long it should be kept.
A bill that passed the House in April would make police body camera video an investigative record, which under state law would not be considered public record, but could be made public through a court order.
A February Elon University poll found that nine out of 10 North Carolina residents support police body cameras and that nearly two-thirds of residents believe the footage should be made available to the public.
Durham police Deputy Chief Anthony Marsh said the department is expected to fully implement body cameras by the end of the year.
The remaining forums will take place:
- Tuesday, May 12, 6-7:30 p.m., Antioch Baptist Church, 1415 Holloway Street
- Thursday, May 14, 5:30-7 p.m., City Committee Rood (second floor), 101 City Hall Plaza
- Tuesday, May 19, 6-7:30 p.m., Russell Memorial CME Church, 703 S. Alston Avenue
- Wednesday, May 20, 10-11:30 a.m., Durham Housing Authority, 330 E. Main Street
- Thursday, May 28, 6-7:30 p.m., Southwest Regional Library, 3605 Shannon Road
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