A video recording of a traffic stop was not exempt from disclosure as a criminal investigative record under the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) or the Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA), the Commonwealth Court ruled in Pennsylvania State Police v. Grove, __ A.3d __ (No. 1146 CD 2014, filed July 7, 2015). Michelle Grove was involved in a two-vehicle accident. She later submitted a request to the State Police (PSP) under the RTKL seeking copies of video and audio recordings taken by the troopers who responded to the scene. PSP withheld the recordings, claiming they were exempt as “criminal investigative records” under Section 708(b)(16) of the RTKL, 65 P.S. §67.708(b)(16) and CHRIA. Groves appealed to the Office of Open Records (OOR), which ordered PSP to provide unredacted copies of all responsive recordings to Grove. PSP appealed.
On review, the Commonwealth Court, through Senior Judge Colins, noted that there were two recordings at issue: a video-only recording showing a trooper speaking with the two drivers and directing one to move his vehicle, and a recording with audio and video of interviews of the two drivers and bystanders. The Court rejected PSP’s argument that both recordings were investigative merely because the vehicle accident resulted in summary criminal citations. The recordings were intended to document the troopers’ performance of their duties and interactions with the public, not to assemble evidence of a crime. As such, the Court ordered full disclosure of the video-only recording. The Court held that PSP, on remand, is entitled to redact the audio recordings of the witness interviews, which are part of a criminal investigation and exempt under Section 708(b)(16) of the RTKL and CHRIA. The Court further held that, under Pennsylvania’s Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act, 18 Pa. C.S. §§5701-5782, PSP must also redact any audio recordings of private citizens who had no notice of the recording or reason to believe they were being recorded.