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Experts Discuss Best Body Camera Policies for Ohio to Protect Privacy and Public Access

Body cams

Police officers in Ohio’s biggest cities are either already using or about to use body cameras. And experts are trying to get ahead of potential problems by talking about the policies that should be implemented. 

One big question for local leaders on the body camera issue is when police officers must turn them on and when to turn them off. Larry James, general counsel for the national Fraternal Order of Police, says there must be strong policies in place so police officers can still do their jobs.

“The real world complicates that issue. Let’s assume the officer’s talking to an informant and obviously confidentiality comes into question. Those are the type of real life situations that you’re determining,” James said.

Dennis Hetzel with the Ohio Newspaper Association says his group doesn’t have a strong position on when the cameras are supposed to be on. But he says once they’re turned on, the content, for the most part, must be protected.

“These are going to be public records under the Revised Code, and once they’re public records, they’re presumptively open and should be discoverable with the reasonable exemptions that we should have or that we have to create,” Hetzel said.

Ohio lawmakers are discussing a bill that would create some statewide uniform standards for the use of body cameras and its availability as public record.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.