Requesting Police Video and Audio in Pennsylvania

Open records_logo stackedAct 22 of 2017 (specifically, Chapter 67A of the Act) now governs the process of requesting audio and video recordings in the possession of law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania.

We’ve added a page to the Office of Open Records website which covers the topic in some detail (although it’s always a good idea to review the law itself). Here are some highlights.

Act 22 applies to “any audio recording or video recording made by a law enforcement agency” — the Right-to-Know Law does not apply to requests for those recordings.

Act 22 defines “law enforcement agency” as:

  • The Office of the Attorney General;
  • A District Attorney’s Office; or
  • An agency that employs a law enforcement officer.

Requests for police recordings must:

  • Be sent within 60 days of the recorded event;
  • Be sent to the law enforcement agency’s Open Records Officer;
  • Include the date and time of the event; and
  • Include the requester’s relationship to the event.

In addition, if the recording was made inside a residence, the request must identify every person present (unless their identities are unknown and not reasonably ascertainable).

After receiving a request, the agency has 30 days to respond. A request may be denied if the recording includes:

  • Potential evidence in a criminal matter; or
  • Information pertaining to an investigation or a matter in which a criminal charge has been filed; or
  • Confidential information; or
  • Victim information; and
  • Reasonable redaction will not safeguard the potential evidence or the information.

If a request is granted, the agency can charge “reasonable fees” (which is undefined in the law) for a copy of the recording.

If a request is denied, the requester has 30 days to file an appeal with the appropriate Court of Common Pleas. There’s a $125 filing fee, and the appeal must include:

  • Copies of the request and any response(s);
  • Proof the agency’s Open Records Officer was served with the appeal; and
  • If the recording was made inside a residence, proof that everyone who was in the residence was served with the appeal (unless their identities are unknown and not reasonably ascertainable).

Act 22 does allow for the discretionary release of police recordings: Nothing in the law precludes a law enforcement agency or a prosecuting attorney with jurisdiction from choosing to release an audio or video recording, with or without a written request. (In certain cases, the law enforcement agency can only release the recording with the written permission of the prosecuting attorney.)

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OOR – 2017 Annual Training

Open records_logo stackedOn October 23, the Office of Open Records held its annual training session in Harrisburg. The session included presentations by Erik Arneson, executive director; Charles Brown, chief counsel; Delene Lantz, general counsel; and George Spiess, director of training and outreach.

This year, for the first time, the training was available via webinar. We’ve also uploaded the complete event to YouTube:

To learn about upcoming training events, sign up for the OOR’s email newsletter. You can also request a training session.

Here’s the presentation we used for this year’s annual training session:

OOR Annual Training – October 23, 2017 – PDF
OOR Annual Training – October 23, 2017 – PPTX

Presentation to PASBO

Open records_logo stackedOn October 20, I took part in a webinar hosted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO). We discussed a number of issues related to the Right-to-Know Law and the Office of Open Records.

I was joined on the webinar by Clarence C. Kegel, Esq., of the law firm Kegel Kelin Almy & Lord LLP. (Clarence did the vast bulk of the work in preparing the PowerPoint presentation we used to guide the discussion.)

It was a great discussion, and I very much appreciate the invitation.

Here’s the presentation we used:

PASBO – October 20, 2017 – PDF
PASBO – October 20, 2017 – PPTX

Presentation to Public Utility Commission CLE

Open records_logo stackedLast Thursday, I took part in a panel discussion at a CLE organized by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. We discussed a number of issues related to the Right-to-Know Law and the Office of Open Records.

Among the issues covered were the OOR’s Final Determinations in two cases (both captioned David Hommrich and Sunrise Energy LLC v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission), 2016-2010 and 2017-0079. The PUC has appealed both cases to Commonwealth Court.

It was a great discussion, and I very much appreciate the invitation.

Here’s the presentation I used:

Public Utility Commission CLE – June 1, 2017 – PDF
Public Utility Commission CLE – June 1, 2017 – PPTX