Mercer County judge rules that police body camera recordings are not exempt from public disclosure

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson has ruled that records created from police body-warn cameras are not exempt from public disclosure under the state’s Open Public Records Act.

Officials in Burlington County denied a citizen’s request for footage and audio from a police body camera, citing the Open Public Records Act’s exemption for criminal investigatory records.

Jacobson ruled that the records are public, because they are routine records that are required to be created, as ordered in a directive by the new attorney general.

The plaintiff in the Burlington County case was represented by Walter Luers, the top public records lawyer in the state. The case was heard in Mercer County because it involved Burlington County officials. Recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that police dash-cam videos are not public records.

“We believe Judge Jacobson correctly applied the law to body-worn camera recordings when those recordings relate to a criminal investigation,” Luers said. “Ultimately, New Jersey and its citizens deserve access to both body-worn cameras and dash-cam videos under OPRA, although access to dash-cam videos under OPRA will almost certainly require a change in current law.”