Request for taser camera footage and tactical operations report
This opinion relates to a request by a current affairs producer from Television New Zealand (the TVNZ Producer) to the New Zealand Police to view taser camera footage, and for a copy of the associated tactical options report (TOR), relating to an incident where a man was tasered following a vehicle collision.
Police refused the request for the taser camera footage under section 9(2)(a) of the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA), on the basis that withholding the information was necessary to protect the privacy of the individual who was tasered.
Police also refused the request for the TOR under sections 6(c), 9(2)(ba)(i) and 9(2)(g)(i) of the OIA, due to concerns that the release of such reports could cause Police officers to be more cautious in how they express themselves, which, in turn, would undermine the value of these reports as tools in the accountability framework for the use of force.
During the course of my investigation I met with Police to discuss their concerns, I sought the views of the tasered individual who was the subject of the requested information (without success), and consulted with the Privacy Commissioner about the privacy interests at stake in this case.
I formed the opinion that the Police refusal of the request to view the taser camera footage was justified on privacy grounds. While the footage, in this instance, did not reveal much more than was already in the public domain, I accepted that there were nevertheless privacy interests sufficient to attract the protection of section 9(2)(a). I did not identify any countervailing public interest in release of the footage on this occasion.
I also formed the opinion that there was no basis to refuse the request for a copy of the TOR. Police accepted my opinion and a copy of the TOR, with personal details redacted, was released to the TVNZ Producer.
My opinion on this complaint follows a series of earlier opinions from former Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem and former Ombudsman David McGee. It is worth noting that the position of Ombudsman is a personal Office. I am, therefore, not bound by the approaches or views of my predecessors. While those opinions inform my own approach, this complaint has allowed me to articulate my general views on Police refusals of requests for taser camera footage.