Request for taser camera footage (subjects gave consent to release)
This document summarises the opinion I formed in relation to a third party request to Police for taser camera footage of two individuals who had been tasered by Police.
The requester, Chris Cooke, of TVNZ, had provided Police with written confirmation from these individuals that they were content for Mr Cooke to have copies of the footage.
Police refused Mr Cooke’s request for a copy of the footage on privacy grounds, however Mr Cooke was invited to view the footage at Police premises. Mr Cooke wanted a copy of the footage and therefore complained to me about the Police decision.
During my investigation and review, Police indicated that the written permission provided by Mr Cooke was not adequate to satisfy Police as to the identity of the individuals concerned or that the individuals were aware of the potential consequences of release of this footage to the media. Police also considered that the footage should be withheld to protect the privacy of the police officers involved.
After consulting with the Privacy Commissioner on the privacy issues, I formed the opinion that privacy could not be a reason for withholding a copy of the footage if the tasered subject genuinely consented to its release to a third party and that consent was informed.
Consent would also be required from any other civilian appearing in the footage who could be independently identified through their association with the incident or the tasered subject. If the footage merely captures a bystander or someone who has no connection with the tasered individual and the images are fairly fleeting, then I proposed that pixellation or smudging would likely be sufficient to address any privacy concerns.
Generally it will not be necessary to withhold taser camera footage for the sole purpose of protecting the privacy of the officers involved. But, in some circumstances an officer’s privacy interests might be heightened depending on the nature of the incident. In that case, withholding under section 9(2)(a) might be justified.
The question of how Police can be satisfied that consent has been obtained and a person’s capacity to consent were also canvassed with Police and the Privacy Commissioner. In the event, these matters have been left for Police to address in guidelines that are being developed for future requests for taser footage.
To resolve the case at hand, my Office consulted independently with the individuals in the footage and confirmed that they consented to release of the footage to Mr Cooke subject to some conditions described in the body of my opinion.
At the conclusion of my investigation I formed the opinion that section 9(2)(a) did not justify a refusal of Mr Cooke’s request.
Post script: After receiving and considering my provisional opinion, Police decided to release the footage to Mr Cooke.