March 12, 2015
We are used to seeing cruiser camera videos of DUI arrests, and other police activities on the evening news. This is so, at least in part, because Ohio public records law provides that these videos are public records.
But as we reported here, at least Ohio’s 12th District Court of Appeals ruled in May of last year that these videos are not public records under Ohio law, meaning citizens and news organizations have no right to obtain them. This conflicts with rulings of the Ohio Supreme Court and other Ohio appellate districts.
With the protection of the 12th District opinion, the Ohio State Highway Patrol is apparently now broadly taking the position that cruiser camera videos are not public records. Today’s Enquirer reports here that the newspaper has filed a direct mandamus action before the Ohio Supreme Court to force a ruling on the issue.
The Enquirer is seeking the cruiser cam video, the 911 tape, and the police report of an incident in January of this year involving a police chase from Warren County into Hamilton County. The Ohio Highway Patrol apparently did not cite a legal basis for the denial of the records, as the law requires, but rather simply said it was acting at the request of the Prosecutor, which is not an exception to production under the law.
We anxiously await a clear pronouncement from the Ohio Supreme Court on the topic. The last public records decision we received from the Ohio Supreme Court took 11 ½ months after full briefing for them to make a decision, so it may be a while.