Ohio may soon get clarity on when police body-cam videos are public

A bill to spell out when police body camera footage is or isn’t a public record cleared a key legislative hurdle on Thursday.

House Bill 425, sponsored by state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, passed out of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, teeing it up for a possible Senate floor vote in the coming days.

“As police departments across Ohio look to use body cameras, we must ensure privacy rights are protected, while providing accountability and transparency on both sides of the camera. This bill will advance police and community relations by providing public access to body camera videos while protecting privacy of our citizens,” Antani said in a written statement.

Related: Ohio bill lays out which body camera footage should be public

Body camera video is generally a public record, according to the bill, except if it’s taken in a private home or business, involves the victim of a sex crime or is part of a confidential ongoing investigation.

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The bill is backed by the FOP of Ohio, ACLU of Ohio and Ohio News Media Association.

Groups have pushed for body cameras as a means for making police officers more accountable. But while the cameras are becoming more universal, the question of which footage is releasable from those cameras is far from resolved.

Related: Englewood police refuse to release body-cam footage in fatal shooting

Ohio’s open records law presumes that government documents, including photos, videos, audio recordings, databases, spreadsheets, 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.

Antani’s bill calls for exempting from disclosure body cam footage that captures video inside a private home or business or video of a sex crime victim.

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