Public Agencies Can Not Demand Payment For Editing Police Bodycam Videos, California State Court Rules

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Public agencies can no longer demand charge for redacting police bodycam footage, the California Supreme Court has unanimously ruled.

The May 28th ruling follows almost five years of legal battles between the National Lawyers Guild and the city of Hayward. Back in 2015, the Guild asked the city to release materials that could shed life on the police action’s in Berkeley, during the Black Lives Matter protest. The City requested a $3,000 payment, claiming they had to edit out a total of 232 minutes from the videos.

While cutting certain types of footage (for instance, officers revealing their personal info, discussing strategies and tactics) was legally allowed, the National Lawyers Guild disputed the named sum. Hayward tried to arm itself with the permission granted by the Public Record Act to “data compilation, extraction, or programming” as an argument, claiming that the police department worker, Adam Perez, did not edit but rather extracted the footage.

However, the state court disagreed, concluding that the whole procedure “was not substantively different from using an electronic tool to draw black boxes over exempt material contained in a document in electronic format.”

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