An Ohio court has sided with cleveland.com and ordered Cuyahoga County to release body camera video of a jail supervisor using excessive force on a naked inmate.
Lawyers for Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish did not back up their claims that a video that led to the firing of Corporal Brendan Johnson should be exempt from release, Jeffrey Clark, a special master assigned by the Ohio Court of Claims to rule on the dispute, wrote in a 29-page decision handed down Wednesday.
Clark did allow the county to blur images of the inmate's breasts, underwear and computer screens and writings that detail her medical history, and to redact 14 seconds of audio from the video. But Clark wrote that the redactions must be made in a way that does not obscure Johnson's actions, rejecting the county's claims that the entire video was not a public record.
Dennis Hetzel, president of the Ohio News Media Association, called the opinion a "well-reasoned slap-down" of the extreme arguments that the county used to try to keep the video away from the public.
"It's a good decision in terms of telling local government that when you take an extreme view of the open records law, you're not going to win," Hetzel told cleveland.com in a phone interview Thursday.
The ruling is also an important victory for government transparency and offers a well-reasoned and delicate answer to a difficult question that governments and courts must grapple with as law-enforcement body cameras become ubiquitous pieces of evidence in court cases across the country, Hetzel said.