Among other things, the events on Bragg Street last week brought to light that Raleigh is only now beginning to grapple with how to implement a body-camera policy for its police force. Meanwhile, Durham’s been trying to push through a body-cam policy for a year now, and it still hasn’t even ordered the damn cameras.
In mid-February, the Durham City Council was set to vote on ordering $366,000 worth of body cameras. But that vote got pushed back to March 7 due to concerns that the policy was insufficiently specific on things like privacy protection, maintenance of the videos, and how accessible videos would be to the public. It was agreed that council members Jillian Johnson, Charlie Reece, and Steve Schewel would put together some final recommendations, to be reviewed prior to the March 7 vote on the contract.
Those recommendations were released to the rest of the council last Thursday. The proposed new general order prevents using the footage to create a facial-recognition database; allows complainants to bring somebody with them to view the video (in previous iterations, only the complainant could view it); and stipulates that videos containing use of force and those that are the subject of citizen complaints will be held indefinitely.
The creation of some kind of citizen advisory panel that decides whether the release of certain videos is in the public interest is likely. But that’s outside the scope of the body-cam general order.
“There would have to be some kind of city council action to create that committee,” Johnson tells the INDY. “But the way the current general order is written, it allows for thatthe footage can be released by the city manager, the chief of police, or the city council.”
Just a day after the new recommendations were released to council, though, city manager Tom Bonfield announcedyou’ll never guessanother delay. Now the body-cam vote has been postponed indefinitely. “While we’ve made significant progress on many of the issues, there are still a variety of factors that warrant further consideration before moving ahead,” Bonfield said in an email.
Bright side: the delay will give candidates for police chiefa position expected to be filled in Aprilan opportunity to weigh in. Downside: every day without body cameras increases the likelihood that something like what happened on Bragg Street will happen in Durham.