A&A: Despite New Laws, My Request for Police Body Camera Footage Has Been Repeatedly Denied

Q: In light of SB 1421 and AB 748, I submitted a request to the city and the police department for the body camera footage and internal affairs investigation report of an incident that happened at my home involving the discharge of a firearm at a person (me) by a peace officer and the use of extreme excessive force.

My requests were denied by both the city and the police department. I have been told by the police department that the body camera footage I requested doesn’t exist, altough by law they are required to retain the footage for a minimum of five years.

Please help!

A: Since you submitted your inquiry, there have been several developments in lawsuits related to SB 1421.  Notably, the FAC prevailed in its lawsuit against the CA Attorney General, which it filed after his office denied a request for police misconduct records.  You can read more about that lawsuit here: https://firstamendmentcoalition.org/2019/05/fac-prevails-in-effort-to-force-ca-attorney-general-to-disclose-police-misconduct-files/

Short of initiating a similar lawsuit against the city and police departments, you can write back to them and continue to pressure them to comply with the law.  A number of police departments were denying requests for police misconduct records because they were following the lead of the Attorney General’s office. Hopefully, the positive decision in the FAC’s case against the Attorney General will result in the release of records by those police departments.    

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner 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.  No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.

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4 Comments

  • I had 911 called on me by a mentally ill tenant where I live, I’m a tenant also. I’m trying to get the body camera footage to show the landlord in contrast to what they have said about it. Is this possible. The tenant wishes to damage me and I may be developing a court case if I have anything to work with.
    the call was on 2-6-21 I made a mention to the officer would responded I would be interested in that footage, would that be enough to ensure it wouldn’t be purged?
    Marc
    Sonoma County

    • A 911 call dispatches police officers to a location to evaluate the situation. This event is recorded as a “Call For Service”. Body Worn Cameras are activated. The officers then evaluate the situation. They meet and talk with people. If they observe infractions or criminal violations they will create an “Incident Report”. The Incident Report will note violations, the conditions at the scene, and statements from witnesses. At a later date, someone will go through the reports and follow up on them.

      Videos recorded during a “Call For Service” are stored for a minimum of 60 days.
      Videos recorded during an “Incident Report” are stored for a minimum of 2 years.
      If an incident results in a DA issuing a criminal complaint/warrant then the video will be kept as long as any other piece of evidence.
      Different jurisdictions may have their own policies as long as they meet these minimums.

  • Hi,

    I have been in contact with the City Attorney, via email, requesting copies Body Worn Cameras of an incident.

    The DA closed the case, and the police refuse to do a follow up investigation.

    The City Attorney has thus far refused to release copies of the BWC’s.

    What are my legal options?

    Do I file a Pitchess Motion or?

    California case, the incident occurred 5 months ago.

    Regards, Gustave.

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