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Las Vegas police raising fee for bodycam footage

Las Vegas police are set to raise the hourly fee for redacting body-worn camera footage only a year after instating a rate much higher than other law enforcement agencies in Nevada.

Starting July 1, the hourly rate for redacting footage will be increased to $288 from $280. During a Monday hearing, the Metropolitan Police Department’s Fiscal Affairs Committee approved the change as a modification to the department’s service charges.

The fee is based on the length of the video needing to be redacted, not how long it would take detectives to edit out confidential information, the department has said.

Metro has previously told the Review-Journal that the $280 feel is necessary to recoup the costs of redactions. The upcoming fee increase is due to “an increase in manpower costs,” the department said in an emailed statement sent Thursday.

“The time it takes to perform the task of redacting video has not changed,” Metro said.

‘Barrier to transparency’

Open-government advocates last year said the costs are prohibitively high and may be in violation of Nevada’s public records laws.

Patrick File, the president of the Nevada Open Government Coalition, said Friday that the public should not be paying for the cost of employees to redact footage.

“Our interpretation of the law is that fees can only include the actual cost to retrieve and provide the record, and that doesn’t include employee time — that’s time that the public has already paid for,” File said.

Other law enforcement agencies in Southern Nevada either provide footage free or charge significantly less.

The Henderson Police Department, Nye County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Nevada Highway Patrol, do not charge for redacting footage, the agencies said this week. The North Las Vegas Police Department charges $50 an hour, which is calculated using the time it takes to redact the videos.

In December, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office asked the Washoe County Board of Commissioners to allow the agency to charge $200 an hour to provide body-worn camera footage. But the Sheriff’s Office walked back the proposal after backlash from the public and an open letter from the Nevada Open Government Coalition and the Reno Gazette-Journal, the newspaper reported.

File said high public records fees “create a barrier to transparency.” But Metro is unlikely to change its policy by itself.

“The most effective way, or possibly the only way to get Metro to change their approach to these fees is for someone to take them to court,” he said.

Budget increase

Also during Monday’s committee meeting, the department approved Metro’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which now needs to be approved by the city of Las Vegas and Clark County. The budget is about $662 million, an increase of 0.95 percent from the previous year.

According to department records, this is the eighth year in a row Metro’s budget has increased, although it is also the lowest increase during that time period.

The city of Las Vegas is set to contributed 36.4 percent of the money in the budget, while Clark County is required to contribute 63.6 percent.

The budget is also set to add 48 new police officer positions. Another 38 civilian positions, which were eliminated during the coronavirus pandemic, are going to be reclassified into police officer positions as well.

The department plans for the 86 total positions to re-establish a ratio of 2 officers per 1,000 residents in Metro’s jurisdiction. During the coronavirus pandemic, the department only held two police academies a year to cut down on costs.

“We are ramping up our academies, the frequency of the academies,” Metro Chief Financial Officer Richard Hoggan told the committee. “So hopefully by the end of the fiscal year, if we meet our recruitment goals, we’ll be able to fill all those positions.”

The city and county have until June 1 to approve the budgets to be submitted to the state.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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