COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — The Columbus Division of Police and Columbus Public Safety departments are looking into complaints filed by citizens about an officer’s YouTube channel.
The YouTube channel Columbus Police Body Camera was founded by a police officer.
“This channel, it’s not about me. It’s not about any one individual. This channel exists to show people especially in this community what the police are really like," the officer said in a video posted Wednesday.
We are not naming the officer because he has not been charged with a crime or any wrongdoing. The officer declined an on-camera interview with ABC 6, but in his nine-minute video response, he said, “I have seen a lot of stuff in comments lately about how I am exploiting these poor families. This that and the other, trying to get attention and fame for myself, which is not what I am doing.”
The officer requests and pays for the public records from Columbus Police, just as any citizen can do.
Columbus-based attorney Mark Weaver has a statewide reputation in media law, social media, and First Amendment practice.
“If a citizen gets a record from the government they can do whatever they want with it, whether a paper, a photo or even a video. They can post it on social media, on the web —it’s public record. Police officers shouldn’t have more rights, but they shouldn’t have less rights. Americans are fascinated by police work. Cops. Live PD . No one is following around plumbers I don’t think. All too often people are critical of police officers without really understanding the job they do. So this may be a window for the general public to see how difficult it is to be a police officer. State lawmakers have balanced that by saying body cam footage is a public record but there are 17 exceptions where you should blur out certain things,” Weaver said.
The law does not declare that all dash-cam and body-cam recordings are not public record, but instead declares that “restricted portions” of the recordings are not included in the definition of public record. The law defines “restricted portions as the following:
- The image or identity of a child or information that could lead to the identification of a child who is a primary subject of the recording when the law enforcement agency knows or has reason to know the person is a child based on the law enforcement agency’s records or the content of the recording;
- The death of a person or a deceased person’s body, unless the death was caused by a peace officer or the consent of the decedent’s executor or administrator has been obtained;
- The death of a peace officer, firefighter, paramedic, or other first responder, occurring while the decedent was engaged in the performance of official duties, unless consent of the decedent’s executor or administrator has been obtained;
- Grievous bodily harm, unless the injury was effected by a peace officer or the consent of the injured person or the injured person’s guardian has been obtained;
- An act of severe violence against a person that results in serious physical harm to the person, unless the act and injury was effected by a peace officer or the consent of the injured person or the injured person’s guardian has been obtained;
- Grievous bodily harm to a peace officer, firefighter, paramedic, or other first responder, occurring while the injured person was engaged in the performance of official duties, unless the consent of the injured person or the injured person’s guardian has been obtained;
- An act of severe violence resulting in serious physical harm against a peace officer, firefighter, paramedic, or other first responder, occurring while the injured person was engaged in the performance of official duties, unless the consent of the injured person or the injured person’s guardian has been obtained;
- A person’s nude body, unless the person’s consent has been obtained;
- Protected health information, the identity of a person in a health care facility who is not the subject of a law enforcement encounter, or any other information in a health care facility that could identify a person who is not the subject of a law enforcement encounter;
- Information that could identify the alleged victim of a sex offense, menacing by stalking, or domestic violence;
- Information, that does not constitute a confidential law enforcement investigatory record, that could identify a person who provides sensitive or confidential information to a law enforcement agency when the disclosure of the person’s identity or the information provided could reasonably be expected to threaten or endanger the safety or property of the person or another person;
- Personal information of a person who is not arrested, cited, charged, or issued a written warning by a peace officer;
- Proprietary police contingency plans or tactics that are intended to prevent crime and maintain public order and safety;
- A personal conversation unrelated to work between peace officers or between a peace officer and an employee of a law enforcement agency;
- A conversation between a peace officer and a member of the public that does not concern law enforcement activities;
- The interior of a residence, unless the interior of a residence is the location of an adversarial encounter with, or a use of force by, a peace officer; and,
- Any portion of the interior of a private business that is not open to the public, unless an adversarial encounter with, or a use of force by, a peace officer occurs in that location.
Those exceptions that allow disclosure upon receipt of the consent of the subject may only be released with the consent if one of the following applies:
- The recording will not be used in connection with probable or pending criminal proceedings; or,
- The recording was used in connection with a criminal proceeding that has been dismissed or for which a judgment has been issued, and will not be used again in connection with any probable or pending criminal proceedings.
In a written statement, Columbus Public Safety said,
“Police body-worn cameras are an invaluable tool when it comes to transparency and accountability. That transparency can sometimes conflict with privacy concerns. Ohio public records law dictates how we strike the balance between those interests. We expect all of our personnel to act with compassion and empathy toward everyone they encounter, especially when that person is in crisis. There are limitations to what the Division can do when it comes to the off-duty actions of officers.”