In response to new state police transparency laws, Brentwood leaders approved a requirement that information seekers cover costs associated with releasing law enforcement electronic audio and video files.
Senate Bill 1421 and Assembly Bill 748 require law enforcement agencies to provide greater public record access, including to video or audio recordings involving an officer’s discharge of a firearm or use of force that resulted in great bodily injury or death. But agencies are allowed to redact audio or video information for various reasons, which can be time consuming, city officials said.
As a result, Brentwood information seekers will be charged $213.05 – the fully burdened cost of at least a special assignment sergeant conducting the extraction – or another undisclosed hourly rate for a third-party vendor if one is used.
The charges are allowed under state law, and other Bay Area cities, including Richmond and Hayward, have implemented similar fees.
“Extracting and producing electronic records subject to public disclosure is time consuming,” said Brentwood Police Captain Tim Herbert. “The police department estimates that it will take three hours of city staff time to review and extract or exempt material for every hour of video that includes audio, and two hours of staff time for every hour for pure audio files.”
SB 1421, which went into effect in January, mandates law enforcement agencies provide access to records related to: discharge of a firearm; use of force that results in great bodily injury or death; on-the-job sexual assault; or dishonesty in reporting, investigating or prosecuting a crime.
The subsequent AB 748, on the books in July, further requires the release of video or audio recordings related to critical incidents – discharge of a firearm or use of force that resulted in great bodily injury or death – within 45 days of the event.
Agencies may redact audio or video information for various reasons, including: to preserve the anonymity of complainants and witnesses; to protect the release of confidential medical, financial or other information prohibited by federal law; or when there is reason to believe the release of information would pose a danger to the safety of the officer or another person.
“It takes a lot of time to redact this confidential information, so that is why we are doing this (charging),” said Brentwood Police Chief Tom Hansen.
The authors of the state legislation say it is necessary to increase police transparency.
“When incidents such as a police shooting occur, the public has a right to know that there was a thorough investigation,” said State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who authored SB 1421.
Requesters will be billed for the actual staff time spent extracting electronic records, in increments of quarter-hours.
Information seekers can obtain information stipulated under SB 1421 and AB 748 by filing a Public Information Act request at email@example.com.