HAYWARD (CBS SF) — An Alameda County Superior Court judge has ordered the Hayward Police Department to refund more than $3,000 in fees charged to the National Lawyers Guild to fulfill a California Public Records Act request for body camera footage of a Black Lives Matter protest in 2014, according to the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the guild.
The city, which charged the NLG for the costs of editing and redacting portions of the video it claims to be exempt from disclosure, must refund $3,246 of the $3,247 the NLG paid. It can only charge the $1 for the DVD, the direct costs of duplicating the record, according to the guild.
The NLG sought the records as part of its federal lawsuit against the Berkeley Police Department over a Dec. 6, 2014, Black Lives Matter demonstration, part of a wave of protests against high-profile police killings of unarmed black men, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. Hayward police provided mutual aid to Berkeley police during the demonstration.
That lawsuit alleges that officers clubbed and shot tear gas at non-violent protest attendees, who in some cases were trying to stop vandalism and violence by other protesters and in two cases were photographing the event as journalists.
A portion of the video obtained through the NLG’s public records request shows a line of police officers awaiting the arrival of the marchers.
“We’re going to start —-ing blasting them,” one officer can be heard saying on the video.
Raw Video: Hayward Police Body Camera Video (Warning: Explicit Language)
The NLG paid the costs demanded by the city for the video, but the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Emeryville attorney Amitai Schwartz sued the department on their behalf to recover the funds.
“Hayward’s body camera videos showed police officers shooting so-called ‘less lethal’ munitions at peaceful protesters while making remarks such as, ‘They are —-ing animals;’ ‘I got it up right now ready to go mother—-ers’ and ‘Get a shot in his —-ing ass,’” NLGSF board member Rachel Lederman said in a statement.
“If we had not been able to come up with the funding to obtain the nine clips that Hayward charged over $3,000 for, this wanton police violence would never have come to light,” Lederman said.
Under the CPRA, the agency is permitted to charge the costs of duplication and, in the case of certain electronic records, certain additional charges for data compilation, extraction or programming.
But according to the NLG, Judge Evilio Grillo wrote that, “direct cost does not include the ancillary tasks necessarily associated with the retrieval, inspection and handling of the file from which the copy is extracted.”
Grillo ruled that the public interest of disclosure outweighs the financial burden of the city to produce the footage, according to the NLG.
The ACLU argued that the effectiveness of body cameras, a widely touted measure to enhance police accountability adopted by numerous police departments nationwide, is limited if they are not readily available to the public.
“Exorbitant fees under the PRA would undermine those goals and make the public access to the best record of what happened when police misconduct is suspected out of reach,” ACLU counsel Alan Schlosser said in a statement.
Asked to comment, Hayward City Attorney Michael Lawson said in an email, “We are reviewing the decision. We have not decided on next steps.”
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