COLUMBUS, Ohio — Police body camera videos would be exempt from public records law for several new exemptions under a bill introduced Monday in the Ohio House.
The bill introduced by Rep. Niraj Antani, a Miamisburg Republican, maintains that camera videos are public records but adds exemptions to address privacy concerns. Body camera use has proliferated in recent years as have the legal issues surrounding their public release.
Under House Bill 585, law enforcement could redact portions of videos with audio or video of:
- a private residence or property without a public entrance.
- a minor victim, rape or sex crime victim or human trafficking victim.
- a conversation between an officer and a victim in a hospital.
- personal information not related to the crime.
Antani said he takes issue with video showing “where you keep your gun, where your wife keeps her jewelry and where you kids sleep” being considered a public record.
Generally, body camera videos have been considered public records. But videos have been withheld by law enforcement citing the exemption in state law for “confidential law enforcement investigatory records” until the investigation ends.
The bill woudn’t change that. It requires agencies to retain body camera video records for at least one year but does not establish a timeline for publicly releasing the videos. The Ohio Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming months on a case involving the timing of releasing body cam videos. The court heard oral arguments last month.
Antani said he’s not aware of any Ohio cases where privacy was invaded on body camera video, but that lawmakers should be proactive considering more police departments are using them.
Antani, the bill’s sole sponsor, said in an interview he didn’t seek other sponsors because he wanted to make the bill public as soon as possible. He acknowledged the bill might not make the short timeline for passage before the end of session in December. The House isn’t scheduled to debate bills until after the November Election.
“My intention right now is to start the public dialogue,” Antani said. “We’re going to continue to work with anyone who is interested in making it a better bill.”