Tuesday, January 19, 2016

City Files Final Brief in Dash Cam Case

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 at 5:28 PM

Police patrol car dash cameras record all kinds of footage. But who gets to watch it? - FILE
  • File
  • Police patrol car dash cameras record all kinds of footage. But who gets to watch it?
The police dash camera video depicting Eureka police officers’ Dec. 6, 2012 arrest of a juvenile suspect is a confidential personnel record and can only be disclosed through a strict process that governs such records, the city of Eureka argued in a brief submitted to the California court of appeals last week.

The city is appealing Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson’s May ruling that granted a Journal petition seeking to have a portion of the video released to the public. While Wilson found release of the video was in the public interest, the city is arguing that he erred by not affording the video the statutory protections granted to police officer personnel records by state law.

In its recent filing, the city argues that the Journal used the process of petitioning the juvenile court to release the video as a way to circumvent the protections afforded police officer personnel records. Known as the Pitchess statutes, California Penal Code 832.7 and Evidence Code sections 1043 and 1046, outline a strict procedure for parties seeking to access police officer personnel records.

“… The city’s argument is that since Pitchess law applies and Pitchess procedures were not complied with, the evidence should never have even been reviewed in chambers by the Trial Court,” the city argues in its brief.

Virtually from the outset of this case, the Journal has argued that the video in question is not a police officer personnel record, an argument that Wilson addressed and agreed with in his May ruling. And in his brief to the appellate court, the Journal’s attorney, Paul Nicholas Boylan, pointed out that while the city has repeatedly maintained that the video is a confidential record, it has presented the court with no evidence that it is actually a part of an officer’s personnel file.

With the city’s filing, the case now moves to the appellate court’s ready list, and oral arguments will be scheduled at a future date. That could be in a matter of weeks or a year.

For more on the laws governing police dash camera videos and the laws governing them, read “Exempt from Disclosure,” the Journal’s Aug. 6 cover story. A full report on the city’s opening brief can be found here, and a report on the Journal’s response can be found here. And those who enjoy poring over court filings can read the briefs themselves in the PDFs below.
City_s_Opening_Brief.pdf Journal_s_Response_Brief.pdf City_s_Reply_Brief.pdf
Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that this reporter personally filed the petition seeking disclosure of the dash cam video in this case and authored the lower court filings on behalf of the Journal.
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