In what appears to be an overreaction to the armed guy prowling the legislative chambers with a troop of Boy Scouts, the Idaho department of Administration is pushing a bill in the legislature that would deny “security video” recorded by public agencies from public viewing.
That means citizens of Boise wouldn’t get to see the former police chief returning stolen property to city hall after hours or hockey players engaged in a game of “strip hockey” at Idaho Ice World. There is usually no reason to deny public access to video recordings in public areas–regardless of the content.
At a hearing Thursday, Administration employee Ric Johnson told the House State Affairs Committee his agency already thinks it has power to exempt recordings. The House panel agreed to introduce Administration’s bill.
His arguments are based on exemption for various blueprints, drawings and plans detailing wiring, plumbing, and heat ducts. By extension, some legal minds feel details of the placement of video cameras and related cables would also be exempt. The GUARDIAN would agree those items should be exempt and would be valuable to terrorists.
However, the content of video made by security cameras in public areas of public buildings should be a public record. It is dangerous to give a blanket exemption of such a vast area of public records. No doubt there are some former elected officials who would still be in office if their actions and companions were not recorded or made public.
After a man in January 2012 made a request for recordings from the Capitol, the agency began worrying. Their fears should be limited to technical details of the equipment, its wiring, and storage rather than the content.
Rep. John Gannon of Boise told Johnson he’s concerned the agency’s proposal could make it tougher for the public to obtain important recordings like those from Idaho prisons that recently highlighted problems with inmate violence. We share Gannon’s concerns and suggest the legislature make some precise surgical adjustments rather than cut off public scrutiny of schools, buses, and any other places covered by cameras.
In February 2010 the GUARDIAN prevailed in a similar suit against Boise City when they tried to hide video of “STRIP HOCKEY.” While District Court cases are not precedent setting, they serve as guidance in litigation.
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