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FAC To LAPD: Police Bodycam Footage is a Public Record and Must Be Released

The First Amendment Coalition recently urged the Los Angeles Police Department to promptly and publicly release footage from “bodycams” — tiny, body-worn cameras now used by thousands of police officers in the nation’s third largest police department.

FAC submitted written comments to the Los Angeles Police Commission in response to that agency’s request for public input about ways in which LAPD’s bodycam policies can be improved.  The department refuses to release bodycam footage unless ordered to do so by a court, and apparently treats all bodycam footage as exempt from disclosure under the so-called “investigative records” exemption to the California Public Records Act’s broad disclosure requirements.

As FAC explains in its letter to the Commission, which you can read below, the department’s blanket no-disclosure policy cannot be reconciled with the mandates of the California Public Records Act, which requires public disclosure of all records “relating to the public’s business,” subject to certain exemptions.

LAPD’s no-disclosure policy thwarts transparency at a time when incidents of officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, and controversies about the police use of force have heightened tensions between the police and the communities they serve. Transparency—the ability of the people to see and know what their government is up to—is essential to the proper functioning of our democracy, including the role police play in it.

Bodycam footage is essential to the fundamental right of the people to understand how their law enforcement officials conduct their business and should not be kept behind lock and key.

Michelle Roberts Gonzales of the firm Hogan Lovells prepared the letter to the LA Police Commission on behalf of FAC.

Download (PDF, 107KB)

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