Columbus OH Dec 7 2016
Dash-cam videos from police cruisers are public records subject to Ohio’s open records law, the Ohio Supreme Court said in an unanimous ruling Tuesday.
Portions of the videos can be considered “investigatory work product” and can be withheld from disclosure.
The ruling comes from a case involving the Cincinnati Enquirer’s request for three dash-cam videos from the Ohio State Highway Patrol of a January 2015 police chase and crash. The high-speed chase started in Warren County. The court decided that patrol should have promptly released the video. Instead, the patrol withheld the record until May, two months after the case was prosecuted.
The court declined to adopt a rule that all dash-cam video can be withheld until cases are prosecuted. The Open Records law includes an exemption for “confidential law enforcement investigatory records.”
“In the end, we hold that decisions about whether an exception to public-records disclosure applies to dash-cam recordings require a case-by-case review to determine whether the requested recordings contain investigative work product,” wrote Justice Judith French in the opinion.
The Enquirer was not awarded attorney fees, damages or court costs in the case. Justice William O’Neill issued a partial-dissent in the case, saying he would have awarded the Enquirer attorney fees.
“It is wrong for this court to recognize the clear public interest in police dash-cam recordings and then deny the Enquirer reasonable attorney fees after it shed light on this on going dispute between the state’s need for privacy and the public’s right to know what is going on,” O’Neill wrote.