Could Cleveland police keep body-camera footage secret? Ohio law is unclear

From The Plain Dealer Hundreds of Cleveland police could be equipped with body cameras as soon as next year, but whether the footage the cameras capture would would be available to the public is unclear.

Ohio's open records law doesn't address whether video from the cameras could be kept secret. And any records not specifically exempted under state open-records law are typically required to be open for inspection by the public.

But police could try to invoke an exemption in state law that allows them to withhold records related to a police investigation, according to Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Attorney General Mike DeWine.

If that happens, Tierney said, state courts or the legislature would need to resolve the issue.

Earlier this year, the 12th District Court of Appeals in southwest Ohio ruled that footage from police cruiser dashboard cameras are investigatory documents, and thus are not public records. Right now, that ruling only applies to the eight counties included in the 12th district.

On the other hand, Tierney noted, the Ohio Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that police incident reports don't fall under the exemption and must be released upon request.

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