Let’s keep it real

Let’s keep it real

At first glance, the proposal seems so obviously popular that it is difficult to argue against it. We’re talking about a proposed Ohio law that would prohibit the broadcasting of 911 emergency call recordings and restrict public access to those recordings.

The populist pitch is that “no one wants their privacy invaded” for having made a call for emergency services.

We can’t disagree that people feel that way, but crimes are not private matters. And how crimes are discovered, who their victims are, how police and other public servants respond to reports of crime, what happens to people who are charged with crimes — all these issues are matters of public record. And they are public record for very good reasons.

Public exposure works

We saw an example of how 911 tapes gave an insight into the mishandling of a tragic event in Liberty Township a year ago, when a neighbor reported hearing cries for help in the middle of the night and called 911 twice. Mishandling of those calls resulted in the death of an elderly woman and spurred changes designed to avoid a tragic replay of that night. The only people who would have been served by denying the public access to those tapes would have been the public servants who failed to respond in a proper fashion.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 105, Sen. Tom Patton, R-Strongsville, is the son of a Cleveland police detective and a son and four nephews who are police officers. He says he’s concerned that people may not call 911 because they’re afraid their call will be made public. That strikes us as a stretch.

And while Patton’s proposal would make transcripts of the 911 calls available under certain restrictions, a fellow legislator has already suggested that the names of people calling 911 would be redacted. That’s only a step or two from redacting names from any police report, from denying access to any electronic record of police activity (such as dashboard cameras), and pretty soon everyone is living in a community where no one recognizes anyone who has been a victim of a crime, and every emergency call is handled flawlessly.

Thanks for your privacy concerns, Sen. Patton, but we think it is better for people to continue to live in the real world.