Surveillance Videos Obtained by Police are not Public Records

The Commonwealth Court has reaffirmed that video recordings created by private parties that come into the possession of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) in the course of a criminal investigation are exempt from disclosure under the RTKL and the Criminal History Records Information Act (CHRIA). Pennsylvania State Police v. Kim, 321 C.D. 2016 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2016)

In this case, the requester sought surveillance footage that PSP obtained from a private business in the course of its investigation into a criminal incident.   The Court distinguished footage collected by a private party from police dash cam videos, which the Court previously ruled are not exempt from public disclosure to the extent they record interactions between PSP personnel and members of the public.

Unlike dash cam footage, the video in this case did not document any PSP transaction or activity. Further, CHRIA protects “investigative information,” or information assembled as a result of any inquiry into a criminal incident, from disclosure.  Therefore, the Court held that the requested third-party footage was exempt from disclosure under the RTKL and was protected under CHRIA.

This decision is in line with recent decisions from the Commonwealth Court addressing the disclosure of recordings created by third parties that are obtained in the course of criminal investigations – several weeks ago we summarized a similar decision by the Commonwealth Court filed in August of this year.

Disclaimer:  This blog is maintained by the members of Nauman Smith’s Media and Right-to-Know Law practice group.  The members of this practice group represent both: 1) media entities, individuals and corporations seeking access to public records, and 2) local municipalities seeking to comply with the law.  THIS BLOG IS NOT MEANT TO BE USED AS LEGAL ADVICE.  The purpose of this blog is to provide educational material for individuals interested in Pennsylvania’s open records law, commonly referred to as the “Right-to-Know Law” or “RTKL”.  The opinions expressed by the individual members of the practice group are solely their own, and do not reflect the opinions of Nauman, Smith, Shissler & Hall, LLP, or the practice group as a whole.

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