LELAND — Cameras play a big role in everyday life, be it a camera phone capturing that perfect photo of dinner, or a recording showing an interaction between police and citizens. Cameras have become increasingly useful for criminal cases which is why the Town of Leland’s Police Department is hoping to receive a grant for 12 new dashboard cameras.
The Governor’s Crime Commission has offered a 50 percent grant to qualifying law enforcement agencies to purchase body cameras, as well as dashboard cameras. Overall, there’s a total of $2 million set aside for the project.
The maximum that a department can receive is $100,000 according to documents submitted to the Town of Leland’s Town Council.
Leland is requesting $72,632.70 to purchase 12 dashboard cameras, which comes out to more than $6,000 per camera. But according to Assistant Town Manager Missy Rhodes, each camera cost $5,000 and the other expenses go to wiring, mounts, switches and charging stations, licenses, and wireless video transfer kits.
“The Police Department does have dashboard cameras in all of the patrol vehicles. We currently have two models of cameras in the cars and the purchase of these 12 cameras will replenish those that will no longer be able to be serviced/maintained,” Rhodes said.
According to the request submitted for approval by Town Council, the older cameras that were purchased in 2009-2010 will no longer be maintained after June, and the new cameras will have a virtual server to store data.
The grant would require the town to provide $36,316.35 from the Police Department budget, according to the request.
Across the country, dashboard cameras have been effective in providing evidence both in favor of the police as well as on behalf of citizen complaints against police – but in North Carolina, access to dashcam footage is not easily accessible.
In 2016, the General Assembly of North Carolina passed House Bill 972 into law, which made accessing dashcam and bodycam footage difficult to request, first requiring a court order before a law enforcement agency can be compelled to release any footage. Prior to the new law, video footage was considered public record and accessible to the public when requested.
The 2016 law requires that a court consider the following standards, before releasing camera footage:
- If the release is necessary to advance a compelling public interest.
- Does the recording contains information that is otherwise confidential or exempt from disclosure or release under state or federal law.
- If the person requesting release is seeking to obtain evidence to determine legal issues in a current or potential court proceeding.
- Whether the release would reveal information regarding a person that is of a highly sensitive personal nature.
- If the release would harm the reputation or jeopardize the safety of a person.
- If the release would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial, and orderly administration of justice.
- Confidentiality is necessary to protect either an active or inactive internal or criminal investigation or potential internal or criminal investigation.
- There is good cause shown to release all portions of a recording
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