In this appeal from the final determination of the Office of Open Records (“OOR”) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that motor vehicle recordings (“MVRs”) created by Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) officers responding to an auto accident were not per se protected from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”) as “criminal investigative records,” nor were they per se protected “investigative records” under the Criminal History Record Information Act (“CHRIA”).
Grove filed a RTKL request with PSP seeking copies of “the police report, and any video/audio recordings taken by the officers” at the scene of a two vehicle accident she was involved in. PSP provided Grove with the Public Information Release Report, but denied her request for MVRs. PSP asserted MVRs were exempt from disclosure as “criminal investigative records” under the RTKL; as “investigative information” under CHRIA; and as records “pertaining to audio recordings, telephone or radio transmissions received by dispatch personnel, including 911 recordings,” under the RTKL. Grove appealed the partial denial to OOR. After additional supporting materials and unsworn position statements were submitted, OOR issued a final determination directing PSP to provide complete copies of the MVRs to Grove. OOR concluded PSP had not provided sufficient evidence to show the MVRs were exempt from disclosure under the RTKL or CHRIA. PSP appealed to the Commonwealth Court.
On appeal, the Commonwealth Court concluded that parts of the recordings contained “investigative information” that could be redacted, while the remainder had to be disclosed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review and affirmed in part and reversed in part the Commonwealth Court’s decision. It held that generally MVRs created when lights or sirens had been activated were not per se “criminal investigative records” exempt from disclosure under the RTKL, nor “investigative information” exempt from disclosure under CHRIA. In this particular instance, the video portions of the MVRs were not protected from RTKL disclosure as “criminal investigative records,” nor did they contain “investigative information” protected from public disclosure under CHRIA.
Click here to read: PA State Police v. Grove, 25 MAP 2016 (Pa. Jun. 20, 2017).