Access to view taser camera footage of 47 incidents where the taser was discharged
This opinion relates to a media request to Police to view the camera footage of all incidents where a person was tasered by a police officer.
Police refused this request under section 9(2)(a) of the Official Information Act (OIA) on the basis that withholding the information was necessary to protect the privacy of individuals featured in the footage.
The requester, Chris Cooke of TVNZ, made this request in July 2010 as part of a series of requests for taser related information. My opinion on this complaint follows two earlier opinions from Ombudsman David McGee regarding complaints received about Police refusals of requests for taser camera footage. It differs from the previous two opinions because this complaint is about refusal of access to view the camera footage rather than refusal of a copy of the footage.
I concluded that, in the absence of consent, the privacy interests of individuals captured by taser camera footage trigger the application of section 9(2)(a) whether or not release of the information would be by way of access to view the footage or provision of a copy.
In his submissions on the public interest, Mr Cooke raised a legitimate question about whether the Police instructions and monitoring processes for taser use are sufficiently robust. I consider that there is a strong public interest in the release of information about the adequacy of Police monitoring processes.
However this is quite a different consideration to granting a journalist access to view taser camera footage as a voluntary arbiter of Police compliance.
I have therefore formed the opinion that Police were justified in refusing Mr Cooke’s request to view the taser camera footage under section 9(2)(a) to protect the privacy of the individuals in the footage.