Greensboro police body worn camera videos seem to be a constant issue for the City Council and it will according to Mayor Nancy Vaughan be an issue once again at the Tuesday, Sept. 17 City Council meeting.
At the Sept. 3 City Council town hall meeting, City Attorney Chuck Watts told the City Council that any City Councilmember could view the police body worn camera videos of the incident involving Zared Jones and others on the night of Sept. 10, 2016 anytime they wanted.
Watts said they could view the video as a group, or individually as long as they signed the confidentiality agreement required by North Carolina Superior Court Judge Susan Bray. The agreement states that they will not divulge what they saw on the video to anyone other than fellow members of the City Council, the city manager, city attorney and others authorized to view the video.
This is a different interpretation than former City Attorney Tom Carruthers.
After the City Council agreed not to watch the video as long as the gag order was in place, Councilmember Sharon Hightower said at a public meeting that she wanted to watch the video regardless of what other councilmembers wanted to do.
Hightower was told that she could not view the video, since the City Council had decided not to view the video.
Hightower said she was told to view the video, “It had to be a Council request” not a request from an individual councilmember.
Hightower said that she had reflected on the situation further and was not inclined to view the video as long as the gag order was in place. She said “I want the authority to be able to disclose to the public what I see.”
She noted that the penalty for violating the gag order was a fine of up to $500 and as much as 30 days in jail.
Vaughan said that although Watts had said that any councilmember who signed the confidentiality agreement could view the video that councilmembers had decided not to view the video unless a majority agreed to view the video.
The City Council appealed Judge Bray’s ruling to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and got a response that some have described as “blistering.” In layman’s terms it said that the law gave judges the authority to put restrictions on viewing body worn camera videos and Judge Bray was well within the confines of that authority when she restricted those who saw the video from disclosing what they had seen.
Both the Greensboro Police Department Professional Standards Division and the Police Community Review Board have viewed the video and did not recommend any disciplinary action against the police officers involved.