LAS VEGAS (AP) — Police can recover costs of providing media with officer body camera videos, recordings of 911 calls and written evidence logs and interview reports about the Las Vegas mass shooting, a state court judge ruled Friday.
Clark County District Judge Richard Scotti said the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department cannot demand as much it asked to comply with public records requests, though he did not set a final dollar amount. In records submitted to the court, police estimated the cost of providing the records at $234,000 to $458,000.
“Metro must reevaluate and report back to this court with the proper fee that it proposes to charge the media,” the judge said.
He added in his ruling: “The government cannot frustrate the media’s efforts to obtain information on behalf of the public by charging exorbitant fees.”
Attorneys for the department did not immediately respond to telephone and email messages.
The judge suggested that it could take at least six months for the department to comply and set a March hearing for an update from lawyers for the department and media companies suing under the state public-records law, including The Associated Press.
Reporters have sought a motive for the Oct. 1 shooting that killed 58 people, injured hundreds and became the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The shooter killed himself before police reached him.
Records could shed light on the response by public agencies and emergency workers when the shooter opened fire for more than 10 minutes from 32nd-story windows of a casino hotel room into an open-air concert crowd of 22,000 people below.
Las Vegas Review-Journal lawyer Margaret McLetchie argued in a hearing on Wednesday that police cannot charge excessive fees for public records.
The judge ruled that Las Vegas police can charge 81 cents a page for evidence logs and interview reports, including 31 cents a page for copying and 50 cents a page for staff time.
Scotti noted that police said there are almost 750 hours of body camera recordings from the incident. The judge said police can recover copy costs for body camera footage and 911 audio recordings, including time to reproduce them and the cost of the DVD, flash drive, CD or other medium.
Media companies can also be billed for what the judge termed “pre-copy preparations” of incident dispatch logs.