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Proposed Akron Charter Amendment Would Require Release Of Police Videos

The City of Akron has had a body camera program for about five years. [Skyward Kick Productions / Shutterstock]
A police officer holding a body camera.

Akron voters will decide next week on a charter amendment that would require police release video from body or dashboard cameras in cases of fatal or serious use of force.

Issue 2, proposed by a citizen-led charter review commission, is among six proposed amendments to the Akron city charter on the ballot this year.

State and federal regulations prohibit the release of some footage due to privacy concerns, said city spokesperson Ellen Lander-Nischt. But even the footage that is not covered by those protections often isn’t released, Lander-Nischt said.

“Typically, that information is not being released, at least not for a very long time, while the underlying investigation continues,” Lander-Nischt said.

Incidents of serious or fatal force always require an internal investigation, Lander-Nischt said. The amendment would provide be a proactive way to allow the community to see what happened, she said, even while an investigation is ongoing.

“In these cases, these very serious and rare cases where officers are using deadly force against citizens, there is just a very high degree of interest in the community in seeing for themselves what happened,” Lander-Nischt said.

Requiring the release would balance meeting those wishes with existing regulations, she said.

“This is a balance between the transparency of wanting the community to see for themselves what goes on in these cases, against the need for generally a lot of body camera footage to be withheld,” Lander-Nischt said.

Akron police have been wearing body cameras while on duty for about five years, she said. Four incidents involving officers shooting suspects are currently under investigation.

The Akron Fraternal Order of Police did not respond to ideastream’s request for comment on Issue 2.