The New York news station, NY1, is suing the New York Police Department for charging $36,000 to see police body camera footage. A reporter for the news station sent a Freedom of Information Law request to NYPD’s legal office for 190 hours of unedited videos. Four months later, the police department said that they would only show edited clips from the camera for $36,000.
The Time Warner Cable-owned station filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, January 13 stating that they are “seeking to vindicate NY1 and the people’s right to footage” according to a report by the New York Post.
Their lawsuit happened as the station said that the charge was “excessive” and an “unreasonable bar to public access.” Courtney Gross, the reporter seeking the videos, told the New York Post that “keeping the footage under a cloak of secrecy” harms any efforts to change the dichotomous and tumultuous relationship between citizens and police.
A spokesman for the city’s Legal Bureau said, “We will review the complaint once we are served.”
The New York Police Department defended their fee for the clips in a letter to the network in September.
“The [records access officer’s] estimate of the cost of processing a copy of the [body camera footage] was reasonable based on an estimate that the total time of footage recorded during the five weeks specified in the FOIL request was approximately 190 hours, and that in addition to the 190 hours required to View the recordings in real time, an additional 60% (or 114 hours) will be required to copy the Footage in a manner that will redact the exempt portions of the [footage], for a total of approximately 304 hours.
The lowest paid NYPD employee “with the skills required to prepare a redacted copy of the recordings is in the rank of police officer, and the cost of compensating a police officer is $120.00 per hour. Multiplying $120.00 by 304 hours equals $36,480, which closely approximates the amount estimated by the [records access officer].
This approximate cost does not include the time required to locate and collate the recordings, for which no charge is made, as that time is a part of the search for responsive records, and not a part of the time required for copying.”
Based on New York’s Freedom of Information Law, if a records request will take longer than two hours to process, an agency can charge for their employee’s time.
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