The Ohio legislature passed a bill that would ensure most police body camera videos are public record. HB 425 now heads to Gov. John Kasich’s desk.
The bill says a body camera video is public record unless it is a confidential investigatory record, a video within a private home or business, or video of a sex crime victim.
Ohio News Media Association president Dennis Hetzel says the bill strikes the balance between transparency and privacy.
“What some other states have done that we've really been quite opposed to would be basically making them open only at the discretion of law enforcement,” Hetzel says. “That's not gonna preserve transparency and accountability, no matter how well-intentioned the authorities may be.”
The Ohio Senate passed the bill unanimously, and the Ohio House on Thursday unanimously agreed to the Senate amendments.
“I think the bill that we have is probably one of the better ones in the country, because it does preserve the presumption of openness that should be attached to all public records, including these videos, but does carve out some new exemptions and exceptions to deal with some of the issues these cameras raise,” Hetzel says.
The bill does not specify when body cameras must be activated.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther welcomed the bill's passage in a statement.
“The City of Columbus is home to the largest municipal police force in the state of Ohio, and one of the largest in the nation," Ginther wrote. "Just last month our police body cameras resulted in the creation of over 60,000 videos. House Bill 425 is a much needed step to balance the issues of transparency and privacy.”