A&A: Is law enforcement body camera footage a public record?

Q: I would like to know if the footage captured by body cameras and their recording devices a public record?

A: The anticipated rise in use of body cameras by police does indeed mean there will also be an increase in “records” that could be subject to open records laws in various states.

In many states, police investigatory records are subject to public records laws, which means, presumptively, body camera footage would be subject to disclosure unless some other exemption applies.

In California, however, police investigatory records are exempt from disclosure under Government Code § 6254(f).  Thus, to the extent that the requested footage has become part of a police investigation, then it likely would be exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act.

That said, if footage taken by police does not become part of any investigation, then it would presumptively be subject to disclosure under the Act unless some other exemption applies.

 

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.

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