Moab Police Department Made Almost $3,000 From Gabby Petito Bodycam Footage — But Have To Pay It Back

Photo: Moab Police Department
Body camera footage of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie

Moab Police Department appear to have violated Utah law by selling body cam footage of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie to media outlets.

The footage made national headlines in the early weeks of the investigation into Petito’s disappearance — and, later, her death by homicide.

Moab Police officers recorded the body camera footage on August 12 after they were called to a domestic incident between the couple. 

The body cam footage of Gabby Petito was sold for $98.

The department sold the video to 30 entities — mainly news outlets — meaning they made almost $3,000 in total. 

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The thousands of dollars collected for the footage reportedly amounted to about three times what the city had expected to collect this fiscal year in records fee revenue.

A city budget document projected that Moab expected to receive just $1,000 in 2021 and the same in 2022.

Selling body cam footage of Gabby Petito may have breached Utah law.

According to state public record laws, “a governmental entity may charge a reasonable fee to cover the governmental entity's actual cost of providing a record.”

RELATED: Brian Laundrie's Treatment By Police In Utah And Florida Is A Sad Example Of White Privilege

This means that while the department could have charged $98 for first providing the footage, they were not permitted to repeat this charge.

“Even if one person were charged a fee,” city spokesperson Lisa Church said, “once that document is created, everybody else should not have been charged.”

A second video of the same incident from the camera of another officer was later distributed for free. 

Moab is returning the money earned from the footage.

Church declined to consider the charges a mistake but she did confirm that this was not Moab’s usual practice. 

She explained that the city usually tries to fulfill records requests from media organizations for free.

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“It’s going to be made right,” Church said, “The point of GRAMA requests is it is public information the public is entitled to, and certainly media organizations are entitled to it. We’ll get it figured out and get the refunds processed.” 

GRAMA refers to the Government Records Access and Management Act.

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Moab Police Department is being investigated after the Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie incident.

An outside agency is conducting an investigation into how police dealt with the stop. 

An initial 911 call revealed that a witness claimed to have seen Laundrie hit Petito but police later labeled her the aggressor and did not bring charges against either party.

Moab Police Chief Bret Edge took a leave of absence days after the investigation was announced.

Following the release of the footage, many raised questions about how the officer’s handling of the encounter may have failed to protect Petito from alleged abuse.

The footage has also been part of a wider conversation about law enforcement’s training in domestic abuse situations.

Many have theorized that if police had been harsher on Laundrie, saw past Petito’s insistence that nothing happened or separated the couple for longer than one night more assistance could have been provided to prevent Petito’s death. 

RELATED: Weighted Down Gun Found In Florida Park Where Brian Laundrie's Family Went Camping After Gabby Petito’s Death

Alice Kelly is a senior news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based out of Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her Twitter for more.