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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Denial of Request for Body Camera Video Violated FOIA

As we noted yesterday, the PAC has already issued two binding opinions this year. We reported on one of them yesterday, and here is the other:

In PAC Op. 19-001, a law firm requested a copy of a body-camera recording of a traffic incident in which the law firm's client was involved. The Chicago Police Department denied the request, citing the Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act. Specifically, the CPD stated that the Body Camera Act prohibited release of body camera recordings unless the recording had been previously "flagged." The requester appealed the denial to the PAC, arguing that the Act does not require prior flagging when the request for release of the recording is the subject or the subject's attorney.

The PAC agreed with the requester, and found CPD in violation of FOIA for not releasing the recording. Specifically, the PAC noted that the Body Camera Act allows disclosure of recordings under FOIA in certain limited circumstances.  First, a recording can be released if it is "flagged" because of a complaint, discharge of a firearm, use of force, arrest or detention, or resulting death or body harm. Second, a recording can be released to the subject, the subject's attorney, the officer, or the officer's representative. The PAC rejected CPD's argument that the latter exception also required prior "flagging," finding that the statute did not include that language when allowing release to certain individuals. As a result, the PAC found CPD in violation of FOIA for not releasing the video recording to the subject's attorney. 


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