Columbia, SC (WLTX) – On Thursday morning, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney announced in a press conference that his department would not be releasing footage of Keith Lamont Scott’s death to the public.
“Ultimately as I said before our practice has been not to release, but to allow for the party feels they have been mistreated in any way to see that,” says Chief Putney.
However, Scott’s family has been allowed to view it.
Scott was shot and killed by an officer with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department on Tuesday, outside of an apartment complex, while officers were serving a warrant on someone else.
Police say Scott had a weapon, his family says he was holding a book, but overall there are questions of if the video could paint a better picture of what happened. The fact remains, that video is not public.
North Carolina, along with twelve other states, including South Carolina, has laws that restrict public access to body camera footage.
"At this time, unless you don't fit into a certain subclass of individuals who are involved in litigation or involved in a criminal case, you wouldn't be entitled to view a body camera,” says Taylor Smith, attorney for the South Carolina Press Association.
Smith pushed to keep body camera footage public, but law enforcement and law makers said it could potential be an invasion of privacy for those on the video.
"There's no need to take these away from the public view, because what you can do is, site an exemption when you get a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request for a body cam and if you need to maybe black out a person's face or edit it in such a way where that person isn't in there,” says Smith. “Therefore their privacy is protected."
State Senator Gerald Malloy said in a phone interview that lawmakers made the exceptions to the law very broad, allowing law enforcement to make the decision of whether or not to release video.
"The law needs time to go into effect to see if no FOIA is really an issue," says Sen. Malloy. However, Smith disagrees.
"It's understandable when there is a shooting, that police first reaction may be to protect their own to a certain extent, but what we want to make sure is that when those interactions are occurring and they end up in serious bodily injury or perhaps even death, that that interest police have in protecting their own, doesn't outweigh the public's interest in finding the truth in the matter,” says Smith.
Sen. Malloy says the General Assembly could discuss making video public in the future.
At this time law enforcement agencies around the state are still working to get their body cameras up and running. Many of them are still waiting on funding for storage of the video before they are officially implemented.