The Akron City Council proposed legislation that requires police to release body camera footage of use-of-force or deadly force within a week.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, the law would make the Ohio city one of the strictest when it comes to the release of body camera footage. The law would also mandate the release of three different angles of the video online to boost transparency, and aims to cover use-of-force incidents that carry a “substantial” risk of serious injury or death.
The proposal comes after a charter amendment in which 89 percent of voters called on the city to strengthen the body camera release laws.
Ellen Lander Nischt, City of Akron press secretary and senior strategic counsel, explained how the legislation would work.
She said the legislation, if approved, would require the police department to release the video footage from three recording devices, with each clip starting from at least 60 seconds before the incident or at the beginning of the recording.
She added the video would be uploaded to YouTube for now as the city explores other online portals, and that people would not have to submit requests for the release of footage as it would be an automatic process.
Councilman Shammas Malik (D-Ward 8) said called the legislation a “really important step” for transparency and trust.
If passed, Akron would be among a handful of cities that requires footage to be released within a specific time frame. Besides Akron, cities like D.C. and Los Angeles are also emphasizing the release of footage to increase transparency with the public. In 2018, Los Angeles passed a law requiring footage to be released within 45 days. Washington D.C. so far has the toughest law, requiring footage to be released in just five days.
“The goal of the charter amendment and this ordinance is to foster greater public trust through enhanced accountability and transparency,” said Nischt. “The citizens of Akron have an undeniable interest in being provided accurate, timely information regarding how their police department engages with the public, especially where officers use deadly force or force that results in serious bodily injury.”
However, local police unions call the proposal “arbitrary” and possibly a hindrance to investigations, as the footage contains evidence that detectives use to identify witnesses and suspects. Releasing the footage could alert the public to those involved in unsolved crimes.
Clay Cozart, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Akron, said: “You’re really putting some of these detectives in a tight spot to find witnesses. Hurrying investigations doesn’t do anyone any good.”