COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – Balancing the public’s right to privacy, police accountability and governmental transparency is a tough task — one that two lawmakers are trying to accomplish with a bill that would determine which pieces of police body camera video will qualify as public records.
State representatives Niraj Antani and Hearcel Craig recently provided sponsor testimony on the bi-partisan bill in front of members of the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee.
Antani says several police departments are waiting to issue and use body cameras until the lawmaker’s bill is dealt with. The city of Columbus wants to have 1,300 officers equipped with a camera by the end of this year.
The bill makes all police body camera video a public record, with some exceptions.
Those exceptions include video of the interior of a private dwelling or business, video of a victim of a sex crime and video of sensitive private information, such as information related to health care.
Altercations between the citizens and police would qualify as a public record and would be made available even if that event happened inside a private home or business.
In those situations, the video would start a few seconds before the incident and end a few seconds after it was resolved.
Furthermore, police departments with the technical capability would be allowed to blur everything in the video except the officer and the subject of the altercation.
The bill has a long way to go and limited time to get there. With nearly 1,000 bills fighting for hearing time in front of committees and less than 12 months before the end of the session, the window is already beginning to close.