A judge ruled body camera video of police response to the mayor’s recent car crashes should be released by the city.
Judge Robert Mega issued his ruling on Friday after hearing oral arguments in Union County Superior Court. The city will have seven business days after an order is signed, which could occur this week, to release the videos. No word on whether the city plans to appeal.
“The city released detailed police reports which stated everything that occurred during the police’s response to the mayor’s vehicle crashes, but it would not release the officers’ body worn camera footage which would confirm that those written reports are accurate,” said C.J. Griffin of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, who represented RahwayRising.com in the challenge to the city’s public records request denial. “This lack of transparency causes the public to become suspicious and harms the public trust. The public has a right to see the videos and ensure that what is in the reports is accurate.”
Griffin will submit a proposed order for the judge to sign, to which the city will have five days to object to the language. The judge will sign it and the city will then have seven business days to produce videos or appeal.
The judge denied a motion by the city asking to stay proceedings until the Supreme Court issues a decision in North Jersey Media Group v. Township of Lyndhurst, a case that pertains to dashboard camera footage of a motor vehicle chase and police-involved shooting.
Mega ruled the videos should be released because the city did not establish that the ongoing investigation or criminal investigatory records exemption applied. Rahway had not met its burden of proving that the videos even pertained to an investigation, according to Griffin, only certifying that the Prosecutor’s Office took a copy of the video at some point after the accidents for an investigation, but that it did not know the type of investigation that might have occurred or whether it was still ongoing.
In response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request in May for a number of documents related to Mayor Samson Steinman’s two automobile crashes in recent months, the city denied a request for body camera footage while providing police reports and other documents. RahwayRising.com filed suit challenging the denial.