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ACLU Appeals To Vermont Supreme Court In Inspection Of Public Records Case

A police car flashes its blue lights.
Angela Evancie
VPR File
The ACLU of Vermont filed an appeal with the Vermont Supreme Court arguing their client should not have to pay a fee to look at body camera footage from a Burlington Police officer.

The Vermont Supreme Court will hear a case over whether Burlington Police can charge a fee to someone who wants to look at body camera footage.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, Reed Doyle — a Burlington resident — says he saw police use excessive force against children in 2017.

Doyle asked the Burlington Police to look at the body camera video. The department eventually agreed, but said the footage would be redacted and estimated it would cost between $220.50 and $370.50.

A lower court said the police could charge Doyle for his request, so the ACLU is appealing to the Vermont Supreme Court.

Staff attorney Jay Diaz says state law makes a distinction between inspecting a public record and asking for a copy.

“The lower court here seemed to completely conflate these words as meaning the same thing," he said, "and we strongly disagree with that ruling and that's what we're going to hope that the Vermont Supreme Court overturns.”

Diaz said the court might hear oral arguments on the case in early 2019.

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo says the department is following Vermont law and the ACLU's model code on body camera use.

“So what the ACLU is saying, when I follow their guidance, is you must produce a copy of the body camera footage and that copy must be redacted to protect privacy," del Pozo said, "and then we look at Vermont law, it says indeed you have to protect privacy and it says you can charge for the labor of doing so.”

Del Pozo said as technology gets better, it will be easier to redact videos and these requests will cost less.

He said the department investigated the incident Reed Doyle witnessed, but declined to give more information, saying was a personnel matter. He said the officer still works for the Burlington Police.

Disclosure: American Civil Liberties Union is a VPR underwriter.

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