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State Records Office Seeks Access to Crime Scene Videos

The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records is asking a judge to allow the agency access to video footage from state police, which is fighting the measure.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, state police officials believe it is within their legal right to withhold the videos from agencies such as the Office of Open Records, an agency that fields and rules on public records requests from members of the public.

One of the key issues in the dispute is footage from a March 2016 shooting on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that resulted in three deaths. The York Daily Record, a local newspaper, filed a public right-to-know request for all video footage recorded by police at the scene. The state police declined the request, citing the fact that the footage was classified as a criminal investigative record, and thus exempt from open records law.

An attorney for the Office of Open Records argued in court that the agency has a responsibility to gather evidence and determine if a record should be publicly disclosed. In this particular case, the agency — after an investigation — found that the video footage should be released.

Footage from police body cameras and dash cams can play an important role in determining what exactly happened when an alleged crime has taken place. Advocacy groups have been increasingly vocal in calling for this type of footage to be released, especially in the aftermath of police shootings. However, police video can be an important factor in a wide range of criminal cases, including those involving non-violent offenses.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a serious crime in Pennsylvania, reach out to skilled and experienced Reading criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman.


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