From The Cincinnati Enquirer A Republican lawmaker wants most body-worn camera footage to be open to the public with a few privacy exceptions.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, would require police to release camera footage taken on public property upon request unless it showed a child, victim of sexual assault or personal information like a Social Security number. The video could be released with those people or information edited out.
That means footage, like that taken of a former University of Cincinnati officer fatally shooting Sam DuBose last year, would be available for review even if a suspect is not charged or convicted of a crime, Antani said.
Footage shot in private homes and the private portions of businesses, like back rooms and storage facilities, would be released to the public only if a suspect was convicted or pleaded guilty.
Antani's goal was to protect the privacy of residents in their own homes while satisfying public records advocates seeking transparency in police interactions. The proposal would let counties decide how long video must be stored, but it must be kept for at least one year.
Whether body cameras and dashboard cameras qualify as public records is the subject of an Enquirer lawsuit before the Ohio Supreme Court, which heard arguments last month. Justices debated whether footage is a public record, much like a 911 call or incident report, and should be released to the public promptly or whether it's more like an interview with a suspect, part of the ongoing criminal investigation.
Ohio needs a uniform public records policy on body camera footage that protects the privacy of the public and police, said Mike Weinman, director of government affairs for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio.
"It gets confusing when you have different agencies having different policies," Weinman said.
And Ohio Newspaper Association executive director Dennis Hetzel agrees, and he's happy Antani would keep these records open except in certain, limited circumstances.
"The big issue is let’s retain the presumption of openness that should attach to every public record," Hetzel said.
House lawmakers have very few sessions planned until after the November election, so Antani's bill wouldn't see action until the lame-duck session.