Florida Lawsuit, Bill Testing Public Access To Police Body-Camera Footage


As more police departments equip officers with body-worn cameras, the question of who gets access to that footage—and at what cost—is fast becoming a new frontier in open-records policy, reports the Columbia Journalism Review. In Florida, with one of the nation’s strongest public-records laws, that frontier may be shaped by a lawsuit by a Sarasota attorney over fees for release of video footage and a bill in the state legislature that would create exemptions in the public records law when it comes to body cameras.

The lawsuit was filed by Michael Barfield of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, who asked the Sarasota Police Department for the 84 hours of video recorded by officers wearing body cameras during a test of the equipment last year. Officials told Barfield he would have to pay $18,000 for DVD copies of the recordings, $190 per hour. The police department estimates it will take to 458 hours to review the videos and redact anything that might be exempt from the records request. “This is uncharted territory in many ways,” said Noah Pransky, an investigative reporter with WSTP in the Tampa Bay area. “There's no case law on it yet. If it takes time and resources to dig up this video, it may cost more than people would expect.”

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