Release Date: June 29,2021
City of Akron Adopts Groundbreaking Law Requiring Prompt Disclosure of Use-of-Force Videos
Body worn camera footage will be released within 7 days of an officer using deadly force or force that results in serious bodily injury
Akron, Ohio, June 29, 2021 – Last night, Akron City Council voted to enact a law that will require the City to release video footage that documents an Akron Police officer’s use of deadly force or force that results in serious bodily injury within 7 days of the incident. The new law puts Akron at the forefront of transparency and accountability related to critical incidents involving citizens and police.
Last summer, the citizen-led Charter Review Commission made several recommendations for changes to Akron’s Charter. One recommendation involved mandating disclosure of certain use-of-force recordings. With the support of Mayor Horrigan and Council President Sommerville, Akron City Council voted to place this proposed Charter amendment before the voters. At the November 2020 election, the Charter Amendment was adopted—receiving approval from 88.8% of Akron voters.
“This ordinance is the result of more than a year of community engagement, research, and preparation,” Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said. “Akron is now a leader among peer cities across the country when it comes to public accountability in police use of force cases. This ordinance demonstrates our commitment to being open, transparent and—importantly—consistent.”
The ordinance, available in full here, requires the City to release video of an incident involving a police officer’s use of deadly force against a person or use of force resulting in serious bodily injury to a person. Footage from body worn cameras will be automatically posted to www.akroncops.org within 7 days of the incident. The initial release will include at least three camera angles, assuming multiple devices captured the events. Any and all other footage of the incident will be released on the website within 30 days.
“Thankfully, this kind of force is extremely rare in our community,” Mayor Horrigan continued. “Every incidence of potentially deadly force is an unwelcome and serious event. Releasing this footage will allow the public to see for themselves what occurred, including the moments leading up to the event.”
Videos of the entire use of force event will be made public, with very limited exceptions. “The Charter Review Commission recognized that existing public records laws, controlled by the state of Ohio, left significant discretion and inconsistency in the manner and timing of when these videos were released. Now, these videos will be automatically and promptly released as a matter of local law and policy,” Senior Strategic Counsel Ellen Lander Nischt said. “Footage will only be redacted if mandated by law, including laws protecting the privacy of personal information like social security numbers or nudity, or if a court orders the City to withhold the footage.”
Finally, the ordinance indicates that any member of the public can petition the City for release of footage they believe the City failed to release as required. A petition can be filed by making a written request to the Director of Law by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail/personal delivery to the offices of the Civil Division of the Law Department (161 South High Street, Suite 202, Akron OH 44308).
“The voters of Akron made it very clear when they came out to overwhelmingly support this charter amendment that they want an accurate understanding of what happens in these critical incidents,” Council President Margo Sommerville added. “This new law prioritizes the interests of the citizens we all serve. While we hope that these incidents do not occur in our city, we can now be confident that—if they do—information and video will be released to the public quickly.”