LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joe Lombardo said just last week that the department was a leader in policing and transparency.
The department is set to begin charging the public $280 per hour for police body camera footage next month, a price hike of nearly $100.
"The whole purpose of the body cameras and I think law enforcement agencies have embraced this as well is for greater accountability," said Patrick File, president of the Nevada Open Government Coalition. The group supports democratic government accountability through transparency.
File said when LVMPD raises the cost of the footage, not only are they effectively limiting access to the public by making it cost prohibitive, but they may also be breaking the law.
"It could be a violation of the Nevada Public Records Act depending on how the fees are calculated," said File.
The Nevada Public Records Act allows for anyone to request public records like police body camera footage. The government entity can charge a fee but the fee must not exceed the actual cost of providing it.
The actual cost is defined as the "direct cost incurred by the entity" and that includes things like ink, toner, paper, media and postage.
13 Action News reached out to LVMPD about how the new cost was calculated and have not heard back.
But File said in recent public records requests, LVMPD is including things like the salary and benefits for people reviewing the record.
"Those are costs that the department would incur regardless of whether or not they're providing records, so that falls to my mind outside of the actual cost as it's defined in the law," said File.
File said unless LVMPD lowers the cost on its own accord, it would take filing a lawsuit against the department to potentially see change.
Files said there's irony in LVMPD charging the public more for body camera footage - while our country reckons with racial justice - police accountability in the spotlight.
"If they're truly embracing accountability, they also need to truly embrace the release of the records to the public and the release of the footage to the public which is the whole point of collecting the footage in the first place," he said.