Health Care

Video ruling could be short-lived

Unlike in some other states, video from police dash cameras is not widely available in Pennsylvania, largely because police agencies have deemed the information to be exempt under the Right-to-Know Law and the Criminal History Record Information Act.

The case was filed by Michelle Grove, who requested a copy of the police report as well as any video or audio recordings pertaining to the auto accident in Potters Mills, about 15 miles east of State College.

State police had argued the videos should be exempt under the Right-to-Know Law and a state law limiting access to criminal records.

In a decision that opens up public access to police videos, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled state police dash camera footage of the aftermath of a vehicle crash must be released under the state's Right-to-Know Law.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that royalties from oil and gas leases on state forest land must be dedicated to conservation of the Commonwealth's public natural resources, not used for general budgetary purposes.

Grove's lawyer, Helen Stolinas, said the ruling was "a decisive victory for the citizens of Pennsylvania and the press to remain aware of the activities of state and local officials and be able to scrutinize how public servants are performing their duties", according to the Associated Press.

The Supreme Court's ruling upholds decisions by Commonwealth Court and the state Office of Open Records that granted a Centre County woman's request for state police dashboard video camera recordings of a auto crash in which her friend was involved. "They have to prove that's the case", Ready said.

The Supreme Court went on to note that according to Pennsylvania's law in effect at the time the amendment was passed, proceeds from the sale of trust assets must be returned to the body of the trust, which, in this scenario, would mean the proceeds must be used to further preserve Pennsylvania's natural resources.

Gov. Tom Wolf has generally expressed support for the bill in the past.

Senate Bill 560 creates a new procedure for public access to police recordings that Melewsky called onerous.

The decision said the only part of the recordings that is potentially investigative was the audio from witness interviews - portions that had been ordered redacted by a lower court.

Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor and Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy disagreed with the majority, filing their own opinions that said regardless of whether videos lead to the filing of criminal charges, they are part of the troopers' investigative process. An agency spokesman said the case was under review.

Grove appealed to the state's open records office, which granted her request.

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