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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, January 15, 2015

NorCo DA: Audio-Visuals of Traffic Stops Might Be Public Records

In response to an open records request, Northampton County DA John Morganelli yesterday ruled that Bethlehem Township police must produce the audio-visual record of a traffic stop made near the Southmont Shopping Center. I made this request last November and appealed a denial by Chief Daniel Pancoast, who claimed the record was part of a criminal investigation, and hence exempt from disclosure.

I appealed this denial, both to the State Office of Open Records and to the District Attorney. The reason for the two-pronged appeal was uncertainty over whether the state agency or the District Attorney has jurisdiction. The District Attorney deferred taking action pending a final determination from the state.

On Monday, the state ruled that it lacks jurisdiction, clearing the road for the District Attorney to consider whether the record was exempt from disclosure as part of a criminal investigation.

In a ruling handed down by the District Attorney himself, he concludes that the record must be disclosed. "While in certain circumstances, some or all of audio/visual recording of a traffic stop may constitute a record of a criminal investigation, the circumstances of the instant matter do not demonstrate how the sought recordings in this case are exempt. According to information provided, the respondent's police department made a traffic stop of [redacted]. He was issued a traffic citation. he pleaded guilty and paid a fine. The case is now closed."

Bethlehem Township can, of course, appeal this decision.

Whether I have more to say about this matter depends on what I see and hear when I get my hands on the audio/visual. Until that happens, I will remain silent. I have no desire to hammer someone over a mere traffic stop.

The reason for this post is two-fold. First, I want to establish that, in Northampton County at least, the audio/visual of a completed traffic stop is a public record, so long as there is no other ongoing investigation.. This ruling is consistent with other case law. Second, I need to rebut the false report made elsewhere that incorrectly claimed my records request was denied. It was actually granted, and by the office that has jurisdiction.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good! Now have every officer add a body camera in addition to their dash cam, just in case they forget (wink) to turn one on.

Some loose cannons out there and they need to be tamed.

Anonymous said...

Do you mean deputy dogg can't plant evidence any more. How dare you ⁉ Do you want to get him in deep dogg shit,have you law bidding citizens gone crazy . Let lie-in doggs lie,after all his daddy and mommy is die in,that's what he told everybody.wait wait ❗ news flash dogg troxell told his friends a different story, that's what I said he has friends.Stop it Stop laughing right now, yeah you Stop it ❗ OK now I will tell you what he told his friends. Okay laughing laughing laughing. Iam trying not to. So he said chief Yosemite Sam sent him for special training so when he comes back the new deputy chief has to take him back and make him full time and the highest rank in Nazareth Police department. Or he will be sued. Told friends chief Yosemite Sam said to say his mommy and daddy where die in. And he had to work a few days in a month. So he would not be able too be fired. By deputy chief ass wipe as he referred by chief Yosemite Sam. Funny you don't hear anything bad about him,from the real police officers.

Anonymous said...

Yunno, I thought someone broke into my pantry and stole my "coo coo" puffs @9:34

Anonymous said...

I suppose im in favor of police audio recording. Im surprised cops haven't fought that. I thought pa had some strict wiretap laws. I remember something about school district busses not being able to record. Hmm.

Anonymous said...

Its my understanding that all bethlehem township police are and have been wearing body cams for quite some time now. Very proactive of the commissioners. But I think the real reason is their just covering their ass. people make all kinds of accusations against the police. This is a great way to disprove them as well as improper action BY the police.
As for wire tap, I believe the only stipulation is the officer must inform you that you are being recorded.

Anonymous said...

what the hell is 9:34 talking about or smoking !!!!!!

Anonymous said...

@9:34 - did you forget to take your medications last night?

Bernie O'Hare said...

10:22, I have to admit I have not thought it through. I know that police and members of the publi can videotape what happens in a public setting. But a private conversation, even in a public setting, might require the consent of both parties.

Anonymous said...

Title 18, Section 5704

Anonymous said...

9:34, write a check, anyone's check go to the 7-11 and get some smokes and relax. Your street meds are all wrong.

Anonymous said...

9:34 = BWS

Blogging While Stoned

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem Township police are NOT wearing body cameras.

Peter J.Cochran said...

The body camera issue is going to get out of hand. There is no way some street officer can effectively do his or her job with film rolling, IF they are really connected to community and have to make on the spot judgments. For Christ's sake, how many times has an officer said to some otherwise good person , 'Don;t let me see this again 'or something to that effect. Not all cops ,are looking to arrest everybody for every little thing .

Anonymous said...

How about when an officer comes in your home and you are naked because of an emergency call?? Is that film now open to the Public?? What about at a car wreck and someone is decapitated? Is that film going to be subject to the right to know??

Bernie O'Hare said...

"How about when an officer comes in your home and you are naked because of an emergency call?? Is that film now open to the Public?? What about at a car wreck and someone is decapitated? Is that film going to be subject to the right to know??"

The examples you cite do not sound like your typical traffic stop. All the DA's ruling means is that the "criminal investigation" exception applies to a traffic stop after the matter is over and the fine is paid. It is no longer a criminal investigation. But there are 30 other exemptions that can be raised. Among these are safety and security. Depicting someone in a nude state would impair that person's personal security. A video of a person who is nude and inside his or her own hume would reveal personal identification information. There are numerous objections outside of the RTKL that could also be raised. The DA would not have jurisdiction over those matters. That would be determined by the Office of Open Records, and my guess is that the office would agree that information of an extremely personal nature is not subject to disclosure.

Anonymous said...

troxell has told so many lies he doesn't even know anymore, but hes def hasn't been seen lately

Anonymous said...

anon 10:57, what drugs are you on now?

Anonymous said...

I realize its a different state, but the body cam video of the arizona cops last breath after being shot? Im sure his widow appreciated that being all over the web.

Anonymous said...

Just how funny 😁 is it when Troxell gets caught planting evidence by his own camera. Then try's to cross exam him self . Loses and recommends a mental exams for his client. Laughing laughing laughing OMG. What the Dogg shit . Did you expect he would win.laughing laughing laughing . Were talking about a jerk off. That couldn't win in court against a mother who couldn't hear or speak. He's lucky she didn't have just one leg and fought him in a good old fashioned ass kicking contest,she would have kicked the Dogg shit out of Troxell. Laughing laughing laughing. He would have been barking up a storm. She cheated and wants her arrested for for for for something. Not sure for what ❓ just arrest her. Chief Yosemite Sam and I will make up something later. When we can plant evidence again.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:57, cash someone's check and get some "medication".

peter j. cochran said...

A good seasoned cop does not have integrity problems like this most often. Problem I would foresee is that average issues MAY get less then average responsiveness of the average officer,as the result. Things will get watered down ,the hoods will then take over in time as result, officers here now RETIRE with replacement being more complacent out of personal defense.of their career .

peter j. cochran said...

The biggest issue with me is that,although well meaning,most cops are not trained well enough at their young age to decipher when to 'clear the leather' and are nationally ineffective as a whole in firearms competency.SO- they draw and shoot sometimes early or there is 'Contagious Gunfire' as the result.A balance exist,like the scale of justice -of competence and fear.I personally ,in the past suggested as a public safety person here in Easton ,that officers should not carry a round in the chamber of an auto-loader, 20% of all police that die in the line of duty are shot with their own firearm. The Israeli Mossad get into more crap than anybody in the world and are trained to crank a round as they draw with auto loaders.

Anonymous said...

Peter, agree with the first comment, not the second. You've obviously never approached a supposed unarmed person who turned out to be armed. Maybe your local pd will let you join a similated 'shoot dont shoot' the next time they do one. You'll see why that round is important.

Anonymous said...

Agree 9:23. Action beats reaction. When you have identified someone with a weapon, you have a split second to react to that perceived threat and make a life or death decision on whether you have to use deadly force. Adding another step (chambering a round)is just going to slow that reaction. The Israeli Mossad are an elite highly trained group. They are the elite of the elite. The average law enforcement officer, although highly trained, is not trained at the same elite level.

Anonymous said...

Da da da da holy Dogg shit πŸ’© batman. it's Bernie's batman's signal light in the sky he must need us let's go. As the 3 crime fighters sit at Bernie's place,Bernie tells of a rumor,that he heard the mayor Dinkle pussy and the rest of the pussy council have decided to keep chief Yosemite Sam /cupcake for another year. Or until ❗ all council members,and mayor Dinkle pussy are removed from office now. Bernie we don't even know what to say. Are you sure ❓ yes but what about the new chief ❓ the one Yosemite Sam and deputy dogg troxell call ass wipe pussy. He was just a front,for the show. Not sure what you mean Bernie ❓ in other words batman and Robin. They just think,the great people of Nazareth are as stupid as they are ❗ Well Bernie,if they don't stand up ,for them self's. Then they are stupid. Bernie you are one of the greatest crime fighter ,we know. Hopefully the people of Nazareth starts going to meetings,telling them you cost us our children money. For the disappointed choices they made. From keeping chief Yosemite Sam,dogg shit πŸ’© troxell,and wasted more money for paying,chief shit face.that there not keeping ❗ He had to be in on it to Bernie. I pray πŸ™ your wrong Batman. I know him,but at the same time,I fear you might be right. Know it's up to you Nazareth people to voice your opinion about this. This is not just your future it's your children future generations ❗ Stand up for yourselves 😠 and dam it don't take it anymore.

Anonymous said...

I just read this,at first glance it was stupid,then funny as hell. Bernie . this was the sneakiest way of getting your point across. Bernie I do feel stupid. I was not aware of what the hell is going on with my families money being wasted,on crap like this. If this is true.how long do I have to live in Nazareth. I have only been here for 8 month's. Can I run for office. I love Nazareth,my neighbor are struggling from pay check to pay check. My wife loves Nazareth,and all the people. Bernie I have a small child,and would love to have another child,maybe a boy this time but will love what ever we have. Don't want my money being spent this way. Even I thought it was strange to be paying for 2 chief's pay. Bernie both of us will be attending,future meetings. And will be introducing ourselves to you. Forever thankful for putting this together for us too read. Or I to would be one of the forever stupid people. Not no more. Kudos on coming up with funny,but eye opening story.

Anonymous said...

Mr. O' hare did you dream this up. Must say. Bernie I could almost picture you in your cape ,but please no tights‼ Bernie who ever came up with you and Batman and Robin story. Hats off to you. Never thought about this,in such a way before. I also work hard,for my money. And to think how Carl and city council are waiting tax money. On 2 chief's. Questions start to be asked. Can we sue mayor,council,and both chief's. For stealing my tax money. Iam really glad,yet mad for reading it . Bernie I feel like a real ass ,that it took me so long. To believe what you have been saying,to be true . Dam it. Iam mad.