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Listening in: Union, RTC in fight over audio recorders

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It's been a bitter battle going on for about two years now. Should Reno area buses be equipped with audio recorders that constantly record sound, even the conversations of bus passengers?

The legal fight is between the Regional Transportation Commission in Washoe County and the union, Teamsters Local 533. It's over whether expanding the audio reach of surveillance recordings on Reno buses amounts to surreptitious monitoring of passengers.

"It's not to spy on anyone. It's not to make anyone feel uncomfortable" said Joe Harrington, Public Information Officer for the RTC. "This is all about enhancing safety and security for the passengers."

According to RTC officials, the microphones are to improve safety. The buses currently record video, but have limited audio recording capabilities. Officials say sometimes audio is key in investigating incidents that happen on the buses.

On the other side, officials with Teamsters Local 533 say it's an invasion of privacy.

"My main thing is that they need to follow the process. And if turning on the audio is a violation of state law, we would need them to follow the law as well," said Gary Watson, President of Teamsters Local 533.

In a joint case management report, the union argues that the audio capabilities would, "violate Nevada law, NRS 200.640 and/or 200.650, governing the surreptitious monitoring of individuals."

Watson tells News 4, this could also affect the bus drivers, saying it would result in a change of working conditions.

For the passengers, RTC officials say they will post signs alerting bus riders of the video and audio recording.

Lawyers for both sides are expected to provide an update to U.S. Magistrate William Cobb tomorrow, and a court date could be set.

Until then, microphones on RTC buses will remain off.


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