Police departments across the country are adopting the use of body cameras due to recent officer-involved shootings. Civil rights groups clamored for police body cameras as a result of these incidents, but the allowable uses of video gathered from these cameras are still in question. Last August, the first police body cameras were issued to Cincinnati police officers, and the police department planned to issue 700 before the end of last year. Body cameras are intended to increase accountability and potentially reduce complaints against police. Additionally, body cameras have the potential to provide crucial evidence in criminal cases that involve police encounters. However, there are lingering questions over whether the cameras are used effectively and uniformly
If you are facing criminal charges in Cincinnati, you are under a lot of stress and uncertainty. The criminal justice system can be a confusing maze of procedures and rules, and you need an experienced advocate who will help protect your rights. The Cincinnati criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates are skilled and compassionate advocates who can help you attain the most favorable outcome possible for your case. Contact us today at (513) 338-1890 so we can help you determine your next steps in your case.
Cincinnati Police Body Camera Procedures
The City of Cincinnati released a policy and procedure document detailing how it intends to use police body cameras. According to the document, officers are required to activate the cameras during all law enforcement-related encounters and activities, which includes responding to emergency calls, traffic stops, pursuits (traffic or foot), assisting other officers, all requests for consent to perform warrantless searches, requests for searches and deployments of drug-detection canines involving vehicles, and arrests. Officers are not required to start or stop recording solely at the request of a citizen.
However, officers are not allowed to record confidential informants or undercover officers, or in any place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy unless it is during an active incident. They are also prohibited from recording in detention or hospital facilities. In all other instances, an officer has the discretion to record an event if it believes that recording may have evidentiary value.
The City will only preserve video for at least 90 days after the last recorded event. After this period, unless a recording has been classified for retention, it will be automatically deleted. Recordings will be classified for retention if it is relevant to an administrative incident investigation. These investigations may be initiated due to use of force, e.g. officer-involved shootings, or citizen complaints. During a citizen complaint investigation, any member of the public, parent or legal guardian, or legal designee of a subject of the video footage, must be allowed to review that specific video footage.
These procedures state that officers are not required to inform citizens that they are being recorded. The policy indicates that where an officer is required to record an incident is not an environment where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
ACLU Model Body Camera Procedures
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is concerned with ensuring civil rights are protected, has issued model legislation that it believes will allow body cameras to be used properly for police accountability. There are substantial differences between the model and Cincinnati’s procedures. For example, the model would require an officer to notify the subjects of the recording that they are being recorded, which Cincinnati does not require. The model also provides for a six-month retention period of footage, unlike the city’s 90-day retention period.
The model also indicates that the occupant of a private residence must first provide consent for recording before an officer enters a residence without a warrant or in non-exigent circumstances with an active body camera. Consent is also required by the model if an officer interacts with an apparent crime victim.
Talk to an Experienced Cincinnati Criminal Defense Lawyer
Being charged with a crime is a serious matter. A conviction can result in serious consequences for your life, and punishment may include lengthy jail terms and costly fines. You should immediately seek the help of a Cincinnati criminal defense attorney. Getting an attorney right away can ensure that your rights are protected from the beginning and may help you have a better outcome. Law enforcement and prosecutors have extensive resources in trying to get a conviction, so you need someone by your side that will aggressively defend your case. Brad Groene of Luftman, Heck & Associates has years of experience helping people in Cincinnati with their criminal matters.
Call us right away at (513) 338-1890 for a free initial consultation.