Asheville newspaper sues city over police videos

The Asheville Citizen-Times filed a public records lawsuit Monday against the city of Asheville over recordings made by plain-clothes police officers attending public rallies. The existence of the videos was revealed by the newspaper in September. The city has declined to release them citing the criminal intelligence exemption int the N.C. Public Records Act. 

In September, the Asheville Citizen-Times revealed that police in the city have been making video recordings of people attending public rallies, ranging from Tea Party events to Moral Monday protests, for more than a decade. At the time, the police gave conflicting explanations for why the recordings are made.

Police Chief William Anderson told the city manager, in an email, that they were used for planning purposes. But the city attorney’s office declared them criminal intelligence records when the newspaper asked for copies of the videos. The distinction is important because planning materials would need to be released under the N.C. Public Records Act. There is an exemption for criminal intelligence, which is defined as information collected by law enforcement in “an effort to anticipate, prevent, or monitor possible violations of law.” It is unclear what possible violations of law the police department was concerned about. 

On Monday, the Citizen-Times filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s interpretation of the videos as criminal intelligence records. 

Read the Citizen-Times report on the lawsuit here