New Jersey Supreme Court Rules Law Enforcement Can Keep Dashboard Camera Videos Private

Aug. 14, 2018
The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Monday that law enforcement dashboard videos are criminal investigatory records exempt under the state's Open Public Records Act.

The New Jersey Supreme Court decided on Monday that dashboard camera videos can be kept private by law enforcement agencies in the state.

The court ruled 4-3 that police dashboard videos are criminal investigatory records exempt under the state's Open Public Records Act, according to

The decision means that agencies won't be required to turn over to videos of officers pursuing and arresting suspects to the public and the media.

The decision still allows for some videos to be released, but videos tied to a criminal investigation will likely be kept secret for months or years after that investigation is closed.

Open records advocate John Paff's request for dashboard camera footage from the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office sparked the New Jersey Supreme Court case.

In a major ruling last summer, the court found that videos of deadly police shootings should be made public under what's known as the common law right of access. But Paff's case argued a wider category of police videos should be made public.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anne Patterson found that while directives from the state attorney general -- who is the state's top law enforcement official -- carry the force of law, the same can't be said for local police executives.

The justices ultimately found that umless the attorney general orders police officers to keep the cameras rolling, the videos they produce aren't subject to OPRA.

In his dissent, Justice Barry Albin wrote that the lesser-known common law right of access is "a difficult and burdensome path fraught with litigation and increased costs" that would limit the public's access.

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