Ohio Bill To Outline When Police Body Camera Footage Is Public Record

Nov 20, 2017

Democratic Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther joins a Republican state lawmaker on Monday to outline a bill that seeks to clarify Ohio law on when police body camera footage is public record.

“As the use of police body cameras grow, the legislation seeks to provide transparency, while also protecting privacy. The bill will set forth public record law to govern when a video from a born-worn police camera is a public record and when it is not,” says a press release from Ohio Rep. Niraj Antani.

No other details about the bill were released.

In 2015, Ginther proposed outfitting all Columbus Division of Police patrol officers with body cameras. By the end of 2016, only 12 officers had them. City officials have said it would take three years to get cameras for the 1,400 officers.

As the number of officers wearing body cameras increases, so do questions about when a video should be public record. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union say body cameras pose a big risk to privacy.

“Police officers enter people's homes and encounter bystanders, suspects, and victims in a wide variety of sometimes stressful and extreme situations,” the ACLU said in its recommendations on how to balance private citizens’ rights and the need for police accountability.

Body cameras have factored into some high profile Columbus cases, including a July altercation where body camera footage showed Kareem Jones reaching towards a bulge in his waistband that officers say was identified as a gun before he was shot.

Jones’ family has been critical of police and the video footage. Officers are instructed to activate a camera during any type of interaction with the public. While cameras retroactively capture footage from the 60 seconds before activation, that first minute of video lacks audio, so it’s impossible to know exactly what officers said to Jones before he was shot.

Body cam footage also led to the disciplining of Officer Joseph Bogard in September. After arriving to a Driving Park convenience store where officers struggled with a suspect, Bogard asked other officers "What did we tase him for? Why don't we choke the f— life out of him?"

Bogard was temporarily taken off patrol duties.

Even when police video files are considered public record, their safety isn't always guaranteed. In March, Columbus Chief of Police Kim Jacobs said a veteran officer accidentally deleted more than 100,000 police cruiser video files