Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

News Outlet Argues for Prompt Release of Police Bodycam Videos, Which Show Taser Use

Image of a video camera viewfinder on a black background (Panuwat Sikham/iStock

The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati Police Department will debate whether police body-camera videos are public records.

Image of a video camera viewfinder on a black background (Panuwat Sikham/iStock

The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati Police Department will debate whether police body-camera videos are public records.

The Cincinnati Enquirer is challenging the Cincinnati Police Department’s November 2017 refusal to release any footage from body cameras that police officers were wearing when they used Taser stun guns to subdue two men. The police department initially stated that the camera footage was a confidential law enforcement investigatory record (CLEIR), which is exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Public Records Act.

The Ohio Supreme Court will consider arguments in the case next week.

Mother Asks Police to Remove Sons from Home
On Aug. 8, 2017, a woman called police because she wanted her adult sons to leave her home. Officers responded and entered the woman’s apartment, where they found Richard Coleman and James Crawley. One of the men stood up and started talking to the officers, and the other then reacted angrily about the police being called. The officers used their stun guns on both men and took them outside.

On Oct. 31, 2017, an Enquirer reporter requested any footage from the incident, and the police department denied the request the next day based on the CLEIR exemption. On Nov. 14, the Enquirer asked the Ohio Supreme Court to order the department to release the footage, arguing bodycam footage is a public record.

After Coleman and Crawley pled guilty, the police department on Dec. 1 released redacted bodycam footage from 19 cameras.

Public Records Act Includes Exception for Certain Investigatory Records
A CLEIR is not subject to release “only to the extent that the release of the record would create a high probability of disclosure” of certain types of information, including “specific confidential investigatory techniques or procedures” and “specific investigatory work product.”

Police Department Improperly Withheld Bodycam Videos, Media Outlet Argues
Because the department later released the bodycam footage, the Enquirer maintains that the videos clearly didn’t disclose any specific confidential investigatory techniques or procedures. The videos also didn’t contain any specific investigatory work product, the media outlet argues. Using points made in a 2016 Ohio Supreme Court ruling involving police dashboard-camera videos, the Enquirer contends that the police incident report reflects the same events that appear on the videos, the police are required to activate the bodycams during this type of call, the videos weren’t made in anticipation of litigation, and the footage had no investigatory purpose.

The Enquirer concludes that the police department had no legitimate reason to withhold the videos in their entirety when first requested on Oct. 31, 2017.

Videos Served Investigatory Purpose, Police Counter
Noting that a prosecutor directed it not to release the videos until after the two men’s trials, the police department counters that most of the footage was investigatory work product because of its concrete investigatory value connected to the prosecution of Coleman and Crawley.

The department also raises privacy concerns with bodycams because the recordings, unlike dashcam footage, show a first-person perspective and can be taken inside a home. Noting that the dashcam video in the 2016 case was far from, and not pointed toward, the crash site, the department contends that the public records law doesn’t address the balance of individual privacy issues with public access to bodycam videos.

Parties Also Disagree About Later Redactions
The Enquirer also argues that the police department never met its burden to establish why the later redactions of plain-clothes officers were needed to protect their lives or safety. The police department counters that footage of plain-clothes officers falls under the “techniques or procedures” exemption and the redactions were appropriate.

Oral Argument Details
In addition to State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Cincinnati Police Department, the Supreme Court will hear three other cases during next week’s single day of oral arguments on Tuesday, May 21. The Supreme Court’s Office of Public Information today released previews of each case.

Oral arguments begin at 9 a.m. at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. All arguments are streamed live online at and broadcast live and archived on The Ohio Channel.

Court Will Review Three Other Cases
In Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association v. King, the Supreme Court will consider disciplinary action for a Cleveland attorney convicted of money laundering in 2016. A confidential informant for law enforcement posed as a drug dealer and approached the attorney about laundering drug money through a shell corporation. The attorney accepted $20,000 in cash to initiate the scheme, but took no further steps. While the attorney professional conduct board recommends an indefinite suspension, the local bar association advocates for the attorney’s disbarment because of the seriousness of the crime.

A couple who owned a Goddard School early childhood education center in Independence set up a real-estate deal with another couple interested in buying the franchise and property. The prospective buyers agreed to lease the building for $12,500 per month until the other couple’s debt more closely aligned with the property’s market value. The dispute in Beverage Holdings v. 5701 Lombardo centers on whether the contract stated that the property’s eventual closing price would be offset by the rent payments, which were paid for four years. The buyers argue that a trial court had no authority to question the unambiguous contract language.

A police search of Columbus-area private school teacher’s house uncovered footage from a hidden camera of 20 girls disrobing in 2003. Based on accounts from a student and a former student about the teacher’s inappropriate touching and taking of nude photos in the late 2000s, a detective submitted an affidavit to support the search warrant. The teacher in State v. Dibble asked the trial court to suppress the video, contesting the search warrant’s validity. In its second time reviewing this case, the Supreme Court will address whether the detective’s sworn statements to the judge who issued the search warrant can be considered by the trial court in a hearing about whether to suppress the evidence.