NJ Politics Digest: State High Court Bars Dash Cam Videos From Public Scrutiny

The N.J. Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that state open public records law does not require dashcam videos to be made public.

The N.J. Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that state open public records law does not require dashcam videos to be made public.
The N.J. Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that state open public records law does not require dashcam videos to be made public. LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

The state Supreme Court has sided with police in whether or not the public should be able to view dashcam video that might show officers acting inappropriately.

The court ruled 4-3 that state open public records law does not require dashcam videos to be made public, according to a report in The Record.

An advocate for transparency in public records expressed disappointment in the high court’s ruling, saying dashcams either show the officers acted as required by law, or broke the law. In either case, the video lets the public decide if police actions were appropriate.

Preventing the public from viewing—and being outraged by—possible police misconduct “defeats the entire purpose of why the cameras were instituted in the first place,” said open records advocate John Paff.

In their decision, the high court sided with a Tuckerton police officer whose dog attacked a woman during her 2014 arrest, according to the report. The officer was indicted, but criminal charges were dismissed by the Ocean County Prosecutors Office. The prosecutors office said it was happy with the court’s decision, “which did an excellent job in construing the legislature’s intent” to prevent the public from seeing such records, according to the report.

As a report by NJ101.5 points out, the ruling means the public will not be able to see such infamous New Jersey videos as police arresting a lawyer for invoking her right to remain silent, a video of an allegedly drunk off-duty state trooper who allegedly crashed into a woman’s car and the infamous video of then-Port Authority Comissioner Caren Turner berating officers after her daughter was involved in a traffic stop.

In it’s decision, justices said state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal or the legislature “can undo the damage caused by today’s decision” by establishing whether and how police video recordings are made and maintained. The attorney general’s office has already established such protocals for determing when videos involving police use of force—such as fatal shootings—should be released.

But, as NJ.com reports, Grewal had joined in the case to support barring public release of most other police videos.

Quote of the Day: “Most of the videos in that category that would either confirm that the officers acted appropriately or dispute that they acted appropriately are going to be shielded from public view. And that defeats the entire purpose of why the cameras were instituted in the first place.” — Open records advocate John Paff, on a state Supreme Court decision exempting most police dashcam videos from public scrutiny.

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NJ Politics Digest: State High Court Bars Dash Cam Videos From Public Scrutiny