The New Jersey Supreme Court [official website] on Monday ruled [text, PDF] that police dashboard recordings are exempt under the Open Public Records Act [text], which requires government records to be made accessible to the general public.
This decision reverses the New Jersey Superior Court [official website] 2016 ruling [text] in favor of John Paff, a notable public records advocate. Paff had filed a verified complaint against the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office after they refused to release recordings from a traffic stop arrest that involved non-lethal force.
The Appellate Court ordered the release of the recordings, holding that because they could not be classified as a criminal investigatory record, they were not exempt under OPRA.
Justice Anne Patterson, writing on behalf of the court, disagreed:
We reverse the judgment of the Appellate Division panel. We concur with the panel’s dissenting judge that the the mobile video recorder recordings were not “required by law” within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1, that they constitute criminal investigatory records under that provision, and that they are therefore not subject to disclosure under OPRA. We agree with the Appellate Division panel’s conclusion that the recordings are not within OPRA’s “investigations in progress” provision, and that OPRA’s privacy clause does not exempt the recordings from disclosure.
The Court remanded the case to the trial court for consideration.