On Tuesday we reported the video of Columbus, Ohio, Police Officer Zachary Rosen, who roach-stomped an already handcuffed-and-restrained man’s head into the concrete while his fellow officers watched. Rosen was placed on “nonpatrol duty” while the case is being investigated.
As a result of our report, dozens of citizens alerted The Root to another recent event within Columbus’ Police Department that failed to catch the attention of the national media. Less than a month ago, the city of Columbus revealed that—in the interest of “transparency and openness”—it wanted to explain to the public how one of its officers “accidentally deleted” an estimated 100,000 police-cruiser videos.
In a press conference, Police Chief Kim Jacobs said that a veteran officer was trying to reclassify the videos to a new system, when he or she inadvertently deleted the files. “What had happened was ... ,” she explained before adding that all of the deleted footage was from 2015 dashcam footage, except for the fewer than 500 that were recorded last year. Although the mass deletion happened on March 8 of this year, the department didn’t discover the error until March 13, and waited a week to inform the public, whose tax dollars paid for the videos.
The chief wasn’t sure how the loss of evidence would affect criminal cases, but the city department requires that videos be kept for at least two years. Ohio’s statute of limitations (the period of time a person is allowed to bring charges) is six years for most crimes.
In a cursory review, The Root was able to find three cases in the last five years where the city of Columbus settled or paid lawsuits for police use of force, including the case of an officer who shot a citizen who was trying to help a victim but made the mistake of holding a fork in his hand. The accused cop was later convicted of soliciting a prostitute but remained employed with the Police Department. In all three cases, the litigation extended more than two years.
The 100,000 videos were deleted almost 90 days after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that police department dashcam footage is public record and must be released when requested. You can read more about this from the national news outlets that covered it at ... umm ... never mind.
View the entire press conference below: