A ruling earlier this month by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner will mean that the City of Prince Rupert will be required by November 17th, to hand over body camera footage of an incident related to a bylaw enforcement action in the Seal Cove area of the city in August 2019.
In the five page ruling from October 4th, Adjudicator Erika Syrotuck reviewed the background to the case file that led to the City's decision to not release all of the body cam footage of the incident as requested by an journalist, (not named in the ruling), through a Freedom of Information request.
The Information request made its way to the OPIC ruling process after previous mediation efforts did not resolve the matter, sending it on to the inquiry stage.
The incident which saw the dog in question shot and killed by an RCMP officer, was one that was controversial at the time and had made for much heated discussion both in traditional media and Social Media at the time.
The main focus of the City of Prince Rupert's account of their decision not to release the video footage was concerns that they have for the safety of bylaw officers in the community, should the video be released and the incident gain additional media and community review.
"The City says that, as a result of the media coverage, the City’s bylaw officers have suffered harassment and threats, particularly through Facebook and “private messages”.
The City says that each time this story is run, it is forced to place the officers on desk duty to keep them out of harm’s way.
The City says that the purpose of the body cameras is for bylaw officers’ personal protection. It explains that bylaw officers have been physically assaulted in the past, resulting in injury and court proceedings.
The City says that the decision to add body cameras to bylaw officers was made in response to an attack on a bylaw officer by a person."
However, in the ruling, Adjudicator Syrotuck found much to dismiss from the review of the request from the city's account of why it wished to not release the video."For the reasons that follow, I am not persuaded that disclosure of the body camera footage could reasonably be expected to endanger the bylaw officers’ life or physical safety.
The City says that bylaw officers have been physically assaulted in the past, however, its submissions do not demonstrate a link between the risk of physical assault to an officer and disclosure of this type of information.
For example, it has not provided any detail or context about the types of situations where bylaw officers have faced physical assault due to their jobs.
Without further evidence or explanation, I am unable to assess the likelihood of a similar event occurring as a result of the disclosure of the information in dispute.
Further, the City did not make any argument related to the specific content of the body camera footage.
I have reviewed the body camera footage and, in the absence of further explanation, I do not see how disclosing it could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of the bylaw officers."
The Conclusion to the report outlines the adjudicator's final review of the information presented and delivers the ruling for the City of Prince Rupert to release the footage to the journalist who requested it.
"The City has failed to establish a clear and direct connection between the information in dispute and the harm alleged.
As a result, the City has not met its burden to prove that disclosure of the body camera footage could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of the bylaw officers.
I find that the City is not authorized to refuse to disclose the body camera footage under s. 15(1)(f).
For the reasons given above, I make the following order under s. 58 of FIPPA: 1.
I require the City of Prince Rupert to give the applicant access to all of the body camera footage.
The City of Prince Rupert must concurrently copy the OIPC registrar of inquiries on its cover letter to the applicant, together with a copy of the records described at item 1 above.
Pursuant to s. 59(1) of FIPPA, the City of Prince Rupert is required to comply with this order by November 17, 2021."
More notes on City of Prince Rupert themes can be explored here.