by Sam Hieb
Winston-Salem Journal reports:
Smile pretty if you see a police officer in Winston-Salem today: You may be on camera.
Some 90 additional patrol officers will be wearing body cameras starting today, and plans are in the works to fully equip the police force with cameras that will record police officer interactions with citizens.
There were 40 officers already using cameras.
That may be just the start: Plans are afoot to get another 110 cameras for police officers, and to start a pilot program of camera surveillance that could start downtown and include other neighborhoods where police see the need.
No mention in the Journal write-up about video footage being part of police personnel files, an issue that has generated considerable controversy down I-40 in Greensboro.
However, it was addressed —somewhat—-during yesterday’s “A Tale of Two Cities” panel discussion between W-S Mayor Allen Joines and Gboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan at Wake Forest University Law School:
Vaughan mentioned the controversy in Greensboro regarding whether the video footage from the cameras are public records or personnel records withheld from the public’s view. Greensboro police officials consider the videotape footage as personnel records.
“The technology has outpaced the law,” Vaughan said. “As a city, we have been going round and round on this. There has been no agreement.”
W-S City Council member Derwin Montgomery said he believes the cameras will improve police performance because they will provide “an opportunity to look back and see if it is an isolated incident or something that has occurred over a period of time.”
That said—I hope I’m wrong— I believe it is only a matter of time before there is an incident involving a W-S police officer wearing a camera and there will be demands to see the video. In such a case, it will be interesting to see how Chief Barry Roundtree reacts.