A new law has gone into effect in Ohio to regulate when police body camera footage can be given to the public.
Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, sponsored the bill, which adds a litany of new exemptions to the records law in the name of victim and police officer privacy.
“Today is huge victory for transparency in police and community relations, and for privacy rights for Ohioans. The citizens and media of Ohio will now have clear access to police worn body camera videos, except when personal privacy is inhibited,” Antani said.
Lawmakers passed the bill last year and former Gov. John Kasich signed it in January before leaving office.
Ohio law presumes that government records shall be disclosed to the public upon request, unless they fall under an exemption. Over the years, lawmakers have shielded more records from public disclosure by adding exemptions.
The new law exempts from disclosure body camera footage that captures:
• Dead bodies or grievously injured bodies, unless the death or injury was caused by an officer or the decedent’s executor consents to its release;
• An act of severe violence against a person, unless the violence was done by a peace officer or the injured person’s consent is obtained;
• Nude bodies, unless consent is obtained;
• Identifying information about alleged victims of sex offenses, stalking or domestic violence;
• Personal information about someone who is not arrested, ticketed, charged or issued a warning by police;
• The interior of a residence or private business, unless it is the location of an adversarial encounter with, or a use of force by, a police officer.
Despite the numerous exemptions, the law earned the support of the Ohio News Media Association, a trade association and lobbying organization which represents many of Ohio’s newspapers, including this one.
The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio and the ACLU of Ohio also support the bill.
Under the law, citizens and news outlets could go before a court to argue that public interest in releasing a video outweighs privacy concerns.