The ACLU on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the city of Hayward, California and its police force after the department charged the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) nearly $3,000 to view body camera footage from a recent Black Lives Matter demonstration against police brutality.
Several protesters were injured during a December rally in Berkeley against recent grand jury decisions not to indict officers involved in the high-profile deaths of two black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
According to the lawsuit (pdf), the Hayward Police Department charged the NLG, a public interest law group, $2,938 to access one round of footage from the protests—a move which the ACLU said undermines government transparency and accountability and threatens efforts to mend public trust in police officers.
The civil liberties group had requested the footage under California’s Public Records Act (PRA), which guarantees that “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.”
“The Public Records Act and police body cameras have one thing in common: both are intended to promote government transparency and accountability,” said Alan Schlosser, senior counsel with ACLU-Northern California. “This common purpose will be thwarted if Hayward is allowed to impose exorbitant costs for the public disclosure of police body camera footage.”
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