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Court: Some Police-Drone Footage Could Be Released as Public Records

Jurisdictions often claim that police records are "investigatory" and thus not public records. But an appellate court found that, in a case involving the city of Chila Vista, California, that some police-drone footage could be subject to public-records requests, Courthouse News reports. The court found that, although much of the footage recorded by police drones in response to 911 calls may be exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act -- because it is either part of an investigatory file or used to investigate a possible crime without such a file being created -- there could also be footage from so-called factual inquiries.

"We can imagine such situations, e.g., potentially dangerous wildlife roaming the neighborhood, a stranded motorist, a water leak," the court wrote. However, the court warned, the city's required review-and-redaction process could potentiality be so labor intensive that the burden on the city outweighs the requirement for public disclosure. The panel, however, wasn't persuaded by the city's argument that it would take as long as 30 hours to redact one hour of drone footage because the city hadn't reviewed any of it for this purpose.


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