Price of Transparency: Police Charge Law Group $3,000 to View Body Cam Footage
Police in Hayward, California, are charging thousands of dollars for footage taken from police body cameras, setting off a lawsuit and accusations that the fees are exorbitant and flies in the face of transparency and accountability.
Following a Black Lives Matter demonstration last December in Berkeley in which several protesters were injured, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) requested copies of police videos from the event through the California Public Records Act (pdf).
The Hayward Police Department said it would comply with the request, but that the NLG would have to pay nearly $3,000 in advance for a DVD of an initial round of footage taken at the protest. Police officials claimed the DVD would cost $1, and that the rest of the charge was for covering the time that police staff would have to invest in providing the video.
The billing prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the police department, arguing the high cost undermines government transparency and accountability.
“The Public Records Act and police body cameras have one thing in common: both are intended to promote government transparency and accountability,” Alan Schlosser, senior counsel with ACLU-Northern California, told Common Dreams. “This common purpose will be thwarted if Hayward is allowed to impose exorbitant costs for the public disclosure of police body camera footage.”
Schlosser added: “Such a hefty price tag will put these public records beyond the reach of most Californians, including journalists investigating possible instances of excessive force by police.”
To Learn More:
ACLU Sues California Police over 'Exorbitant' Body Cam Footage Charge (by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams)
ACLU Sues Hayward Over Fee for Body Camera Footage from Black Lives Matter Protest in Berkeley (by Rebecca Parr, Contra Costa Times)
ACLU Files PRA Lawsuit against Hayward PD Over Body Camera Footage (American Civil Liberties Union)
Police-Shooting Video Unsealed Just Long Enough to be Posted Online (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)
Who’s Profiting from Police Body Cameras? The Company that Makes Taser Guns (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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