Privacy Law

Videos from police probe of bikini baristas are subject to open records law, judge rules

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Police in Everett, Washington, have to release copies of surveillance videos of bikini baristas who exposed themselves and performed sexual acts, but the records could be released in a screen-shot format, a Snohomish County judge has ruled.

Judge George Appel ruled on Monday that open records law requires the city to copy and release the video records, but there is no requirement that they be released in electronic format, HeraldNet reports.

“If the city were to provide hard copies of particular frames requested by a person inspecting the video,” Appel said in his decision (PDF), “there would be no violation of [state law] and the danger that electronic videos would be on the Internet would be greatly diminished.”

The plaintiff, Arthur West of Olympia, is “a prolific requester of public records,” according to the HeraldNet article. The city of Everett offered to allow him to view the videos at police headquarters, but refused to provide copies.

According to Appel, the videos show baristas who “expose their breasts and the orifices associated with their nether parts and perform sexual acts involving themselves, each other, and customers.” The police investigation has yielded three felony pleas.

The city had maintained the baristas would be harassed if the videos ended up on the Internet. The city argued that privacy rights integral to the Fourth Amendment barred the city from making copies of the videos for those who requested them.

Appel disagreed on the privacy issue. “The cases cited by the city appeal to fall into two categories,” he wrote, “neither of which comes close to establishing a constitutional right to privacy in these circumstances.” He noted the recorded behavior “occurred where any member of the public might have viewed it.”

Headline corrected at 7:55 a.m. to state that the videos are subject to open records law.

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