Court finds jail videotape not a public record
MISSOURI–A jail videotape of a state lawmaker being booked for driving while intoxicated is not an official arrest record available to the public under the state Sunshine Law, a Jefferson City judge ruled in late August.
“The purpose of the video tapes is not to record the transactions which they may incidentally depict, but to enable the Sheriff’s Department to survey the building and spot potential dangerous activity,” Circuit Court Judge Byron Kinder wrote.
Television station KRCG, the CBS affiliate in Jefferson City, requested the videotape following Rep. Mark Richardson’s (R-Poplar Bluff) April arrest.
The Cole County prosecutor asked the circuit court to rule on whether the tape falls within the Sunshine Law’s definition of a public record.
KRCG argued that the tape is an arrest record of a citizen, and as such, provides a glimpse into the daily business of law enforcement — a matter that is of concern to the general public.
The county prosecutor contended that a record is public if a government body normally preserves it in the ordinary course of business or if it is required to be kept by law. Because the videotapes are routinely reused and not preserved they are not public records, the prosecutor argued.
Following a June hearing, the judge concluded that the videotape is not a public record within the meaning of the Sunshine Law. It was not made in connection with official business but instead was recorded in order to maintain a safe and secure jail and courthouse, the court said.
In late September, KRCG filed a notice of appeal in the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City. (Hemeyer v. KRCG-TV; Media Counsel: Jean Lamfers, Kansas City)