State Watch

9 states with some of the strictest rules on releasing body cam videos

Police body camera footage is under new scrutiny following a judge’s ruling in North Carolina limiting the portions of video that can be seen by the family members of Andrew Brown Jr., who was fatally shot by an officer last month.

With no federal requirements on releasing police videos, states often differ in their approach to making the footage publicly available, and not all states have regulations in place.

Some states, like California and New York, require the release of police videos in most cases, while others only allow the release of recordings following a court order. Most states that allow recordings to be released have privacy exceptions along with restrictions if the footage would interfere with an ongoing investigation.

Here are the states that have some of the most restrictive laws governing disclosure of police body camera recordings.


The state does not have a statute directly governing disclosure of body camera videos, and law enforcement investigation reports and related material are not public record. Materials can be disclosed, however, by court order.


State law declares that body camera footage is not a public record unless it contains the attempt or use of deadly force. The law enforcement agency must also consent to the video’s release.


The state classifies body camera footage as a “criminal investigation record,” which is exempt from disclosure under the Kansas Open Records Act. The law states that the subject of the video, the individual’s guardian or their attorney can make a request and be allowed to watch the video for a “reasonable fee.”


Maine does not have a law specifically governing the release of body camera footage. The state’s Freedom of Access Act provides for requesting public records, but there are more than 300 exceptions to public disclosure, including county personnel records concerning the use of force.


Missouri law states that “mobile video recordings” are private until the investigation is concluded or if the footage is taken in a nonpublic location. However, any person depicted in the video or their guardian, attorney or insurer is allowed to obtain an unedited copy of the footage.

Courts can also rule for the release of a recording if a person pursues legal action. In those situations, the court must conclude that the “benefit to the person bringing the action or to the public outweighs any harm to the public, to the law enforcement agency or any of its officers or to any person identified in the mobile video recording.” The court must also decide if the video violates any right to privacy.

North Carolina

Body-worn camera footage is not considered a public record and can only be released by court order.

South Carolina

Footage captured by body-worn cameras is not subject to public disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Law enforcement agencies and some other officials may release the footage at their own discretion.


According to state occupational codes, release of body camera footage is not subject to public information laws unless it is “information that could be used as evidence in criminal prosecution.”


Public access to body camera footage is limited unless there is a “compelling public interest as determined by court order.” The footage can be requested by the subject and when the footage involves deadly force or serious injury. It can also be requested as a part of a complaint against a member of law enforcement.

Tags police body cameras police brutality Police shootings Public records

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