The ACLU of Vermont, along with cooperating attorney Anthony Iarrapino, has filed a public records lawsuit on behalf of Reed Doyle against the Burlington Police Department for failure to produce bodycam footage of an alleged use-of-force incident.
In June of 2017, Reed Doyle was walking his dog near Roosevelt Park in Burlington when he noticed police officers engaged in heated discussion with a group of children. One of the children had been arrested.
According to Mr. Doyle's account, an officer threatened to pepper spray the group if they did not reatreat. As on of the children walked backward with his hands up, an officer pushed him forcefully with both arms. The boy, believed to be between 11 and 13 years of age, protested the use of force. The officers huddled for discussion, and then arrested the boy.
Mr. Doyle submitted a written complaint to the Burlington Police Department and Police Comission about the incident, but was never informed of any follow-up. To review the incident himself, he requested to inspect available records from the incident, including bodycam footage, but the Burlington Police Department, in violation of Vermont's Public Records Act, repeatedly denied access to those records.
Mr. Doyle contacted the ACLU of Vermont, which filed an appeal on his behalf. The Department conceded that Mr. Doyle had the right to inspect the footage, but only after it had been heavily redacted. The Department stated that it would charge Mr. Doyle several hundred dollars for the redactions, including $220.50 in advance to begin work. Since government agencies are not permitted to charge for inspection of a public record, and since the redactions in this case are unecessary due to Mr. Doyle being a first-hand witness to the incidents recorded, this demand was a further violation of the Public Records Law.
The case is pending in Washington County Superior Court's Civil Division.