Joshua Rohrer

Veteran Joshua Rohrer Wins Sunshine Award for Citizen Advocacy

The North Carolina Open Government Coalition presented the Sunshine Award for Citizen Advocacy to Joshua Rohrer, a veteran who is calling for more public access to police body camera footage.

After serving in the armed forces in Iraq, Joshua Rohrer suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. After a while, he became homeless. On October 13, 2021, Rohrer was arrested for panhandling in Gastonia. During the arrest, police officers tased Rohrer’s service dog, Sunshine. Sunshine died shortly thereafter. After the arrest, Rohrer navigated the complex legal terrain of obtaining police body camera footage, which is not public record in North Carolina and may only be released by court order. He has dedicated his spare time to advocating for improvement in the body cam law, addressing qualified immunity and fighting for better community policing.

“Joshua Rohrer’s story should move all of us to action,” said Brooks Fuller, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition. “He may not be who you typically think of when you think of a Sunshine Award recipient. We think of reporters and elected leaders all the time, but we don’t think about folks who fight for access in the ways he has. Joshua’s story demonstrates what’s at stake if the public does not have adequate information to hold police accountable.”

Rohrer launched to capture his journey and organize for better transparency in law enforcement.

Rohrer is no longer homeless and has a new service dog, whom he named Justice. He continues to seek justice for Sunshine and for all who have been subjected to abuses, unfair treatment and excessive force at the hands of police officers.

The Sunshine Award for Citizen Advocacy is presented to a member of the community who uses state access laws to obtain information and hold government actors accountable. The recipients’ work demonstrates the importance of North Carolina’s public records and open meetings laws for communities across the state. The award was presented at the annual N.C. News and Information Summit held at North Carolina Central University on Sunshine Day.

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