Monday, December 28, 2015

Thirty-day retention limit established for government video surveillance recordings.

At its September 17, 2015 meeting, the State Records Committee approved changes to state, county and municipal Records Retention Schedules requiring routine video surveillance recordings to be retained for a period of thirty days.  The requirement covers "real-time footage of buildings, grounds, and physical properties that are owned or controlled via leases or other contractual arrangements by the" government agency.  The thirty-day period is extended, however, if an incident, such as a slip and fall, motor vehicle accident or crime, is captured on the footage.  In such a case, the agency must defer to appropriate law enforcement record retention schedules.

I became interested in this issue after Washington Township (Gloucester County) Clerk Jill McCrea denied my request for surveillance recordings because the Township's cameras automatically re-recorded and thus overwrote videos every seven days.  When I questioned Gloucester County Municipal Clerks Association President Patricia A. Frontino about the propriety of such a short period of video retention, she wrote in an April 21, 2015 e-mail: "As you already know, the State Records Council [sic] has no requirement for the amount of time a video surveillance recording is to be retained.  Therefore, each municipality is left to establish their own time."

Not satisfied with Frontino's response, I reached out to John Mitch who is president of the Municipal Clerks' Association of New Jersey.  Mr. Mitch informed me that the State Records Committee was actively considering a thirty-day retention period.

According to the State Records Committee minutes, the New Jersey Department of Transportation tried to get a waiver from the thirty-day requirement based on its belief that its current video equipment lacked "the capacity to store images beyond 7 days."  The waiver request was denied and Records Committee member Joseph Klett, who serves as Chief of State Archives, remarked that granting this waiver would undermine the whole schedule.

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