Judge says KSTP can have bus surveillance video

A Minnesota Court of Appeals panel today ruled that surveillance video on Metro Transit buses is public information and ordered video released to a Twin Cities TV station.

KSTP sought the video as part of a story about bus drivers, in which two were involved in separate and unrelated incidents.

In one, bus driver, Andrew Solovjos crashed near Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis with passengers on board.

In another, a driver had a fight with a bicyclist.

KSTP reporter Jay Kolls requested the video, but the Metropolitan Council, which runs Metro Transit, claimed the video is personnel data and can’t be released because it had been reviewed for “investigatory and disciplinary purposes.” Neither bus driver was disciplined.

“These video recordings serve ‘a variety of service and safety-related functions for the agency,'” Judge Margaret Church Chutich ruled today (pdf).

These purposes presumably include criminal investigations, accident investigations, monitoring passenger behavior and needs, as well as evaluating the performance of personnel.

Video recordings from public buses are maintained for a variety of reasons. Although the video recordings were eventually downloaded and used to review the bus drivers’ conduct, that investigatory use does not mean that the video recordings became ‘personnel data.

Church said when a bus driver is on the job, “the driver’s actions are hardly private; how a driver performs his duties is highly visible to passengers, and even to nearby pedestrians and motorists.”