US state Supreme Court rules dash-cam footage can be made public

A 5-2 majority found decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis

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Dashboard cam footage from police vehicles must be released under the State's Right-To-Know law following a car crash, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled.

The ruling found that there is no blanket rule for releasing the footage, acknowledging that in some cases it will not be possible to release footage that is part of investigations.

A 5-2 majority found decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis on whether exceptions for investigative material apply, and police have the burden to show why a video is exempt from release.

The move has been hailed as significant by public record watchdogs as significant. 

"Citizens should care because it gives them the ability to access police dash camera video, which will help them understand police interaction in the community and provide accountability," said Melissa Melewsky, who filed a friend of the court brief in the case on behalf of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

State police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said the decision is under review by the agency's lawyers.

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 car crash in which her friend was involved.

The case dealt specifically with video taken by cameras mounted on the dashboards of cruisers driven by state troopers who responded to the 2014 crash, but it could apply to other kinds of video recording by police, such as body cameras, Melewsky said.