Should you be able to view police body cam video for free?

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Should you be able to view police body camera video at the police station free of charge? That's the question the Vermont Supreme Court will be facing soon.

Our Cat Viglienzoni brings you up to speed on the case.

In the summer of 2017, Burlington resident Reed Doyle says he witnessed a disproportionate police response to a playground fight at Roosevelt Park in the city's Old North End.

"A female officer came in. Instead of de-escalating the situation, I felt like she escalated the situation by threatening to pepper-spray the kids if they didn't get back," Doyle told WCAX News in 2018.

He told us an officer also pushed a teenage boy, which is why he wanted to see the police body camera footage. But he was told it would have to be heavily redacted and would cost hundreds of dollars. His fight to view it free of charge has made it all the way to the state's highest court.

"We're hoping to vindicate Vermonters' rights to free inspection of public records," said Jay Diaz, a lawyer for the ACLU of Vermont.

The ACLU of Vermont represents Doyle. They want the Vermont Supreme Court to overturn a lower court's ruling which sided with police.

"He sought to just take a look at the video. He's actually also in that video and witnessed the events that are on that video but he was prevented from doing so because the city said he was going to have to pay several hundred dollars just to take a look at it," Diaz said.

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo says he believes the lower court's ruling was grounded in precedent. He says in videos where minors are involved, they have to redact some of it to protect their identities, which takes time.

"It's not just about inspecting something; we have to make a copy of the original and redact it. And the law says we can charge for those copies," del Pozo said. "So we'll see if the Supreme Court agrees. If not, we'll abide by the ruling of the law."

The Vermont Supreme Court will hear the case April 17.