Tag Archives | dash-cams

About police dash cam videos

NJSPJ wants Attorney General

to improve police dash cam policy

The New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists urges New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to adopt a state-wide policy that all police dash cam videos be classified as public records as he has already done with dash cam videos from fatal police shootings.

The request comes in response to last week’s New Jersey Supreme Court 4-3 ruling that the police dash cam video in the case should not be considered a public record and therefore not be subject to disclosures required by the state’s Open Public Records Act.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by public records advocate John Paff after a 2014 incident in which a Tuckerton police officer set a K-9 police dog on a woman pulled from her car after she committed several motor vehicle infractions. The incident was captured by police dash cam video.

This decision will have far-reaching consequences because it will curtail the public’s right to know about critical incidents and thus erode public confidence in law enforcement.

That is why we support calls for the attorney general to undo the damage done by the state’s high court’s decision by adopting a policy that outlines how all police dash cam videos are made and maintained.

Here’s why we believe last week’s decision is misguided:

  • It is inconsistent with the court’s ruling last year involving a police shooting case in Lyndhurst. The court found that the video was a public record given a policy established by the attorney general that requires police dash cam video be made public in all cases involving police shootings.
  • The majority decision argues the two are different because the Tuckerton video was made as a result of a municipal police chief’s order, not the attorney general’s, and therefore does not carry the “force of law’’ required to make it a public record.
  • However, we disagree and concur with Supreme Court Justice Barry T. Albin who, in his dissenting opinion found the distinction arbitrary. As Albin wrote: “The concerns expressed by the Court in favor of disclosure of a dash-cam video in a police shooting case apply with equal force here where a police dog was allowed to attack a driver stopped for motor vehicle infractions and eluding.’’

To further quote Judge Albin:

“In the wake of today’s majority opinion, the operations of our government will be less transparent and our citizenry less informed, which may lead to greater misunderstanding and more distrust between the public and the police. The majority drastically limits the public’s right to access video recordings made by police officers when they interact or have confrontations with members of the public. This closing of what ordinarily should be an open door of access to records violates both specific statutory provisions and the broad principles of OPRA, and is inconsistent with our own jurisprudence.”

New Jersey SPJ, along with several other organizations, filed a friend of the court brief in support of John Paff, the plaintiff in the case that the court ruled upon.…

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Dash-cam videos, new SkillsFest

Hello SPJ members! I hope you’ve all had a good summer and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.

Your SPJ New Jersey board had a very productive summer. Here are a few things we’ve been working on.

Friend of the court

This past weekend the board voted unanimously to join in an amicus or “friend of the court” brief in a lawsuit filed by John Paff versus Ocean County.

Paff is an officer with New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, an open records advocacy group with which New Jersey SPJ holds a permanent seat.

He sought a copy of a police dashboard video from a 2014 incident in which a police dog attacked a woman who allegedly failed to stop in a vehicle pursuit.

Here is a link to a story about the case.

As one of our board members wrote, it is a relatively easy decision to join this case as a “friend of the court.”

To a person, our board believes it is important that police dashboard camera footage be a public record.

A step back in time

Our board had a productive meeting on Aug. 26 in Flemington. We met in perhaps the most elegant surroundings of any meeting in several years: the Doric House next to the Hunterdon County Historical Society Library.

The library had a wealth of materials about the 1935 Lindbergh kidnap-murder trial which took place in the courthouse just down the block and across the street.

For me, the highlight of the collection was a document signed by all the reporters who covered the trial, including one “Damon Runyon.”

Later Regional Director Jane Primerano led us on a walking tour to the now defunct Union Hotel where Runyon and the press corps stayed during the trial.

A new board member

During the meeting, we voted to confirm the appointment of Claire Regan as the newest member of our board.

Claire is a former editor for the Staten Island Advance who now teaches journalism at Wagner University.

She is a former member of the New York Deadline Club’s board of directors where she served on their scholarship committee. She helped Jane organize the most recent Region 1 Spring Conference in New York City.

Claire is a gifted graphic designer. She designed the beautiful medallions that the Deadline Club uses for their Hall of Fame. She also helped our chapter with designing brochures when New Jersey last hosted the spring regional conference in New Brunswick.

She fills the unexpired term of Maureen Nevin. Thanks, Maureen, for your service.

We’re a non-profit (again)

Our chapter received some good news recently from the Internal Revenue Service. We have been approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)6 organization.

What this means for us is that we no longer have to rely upon the national SPJ’s tax exempt status.…

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