Ohio PD loses dash cam data

About 12 percent of the Columbus police patrol vehicles might not have been recording for almost a week because the division's storage server was full

By Allison Manning
The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — About 12 percent of the Columbus police patrol vehicles that have dashboard cameras might not have been recording for almost a week because the division's storage server was full.

The server — where video is uploaded and saved for two years — reached capacity on Aug. 28, according to Deputy Chief Michael Woods.

Usually, when a cruiser or wagon pulls into headquarters, a substation or the maintenance facility, video uploads to the server wirelessly from the cruiser's SD — or memory — card.

But with the server at capacity, that wasn't happening, and the SD cards filled up.

It isn't clear how many incidents weren't recorded, Woods said.

"We haven't had an incident of a critical nature we've needed to record," he said.

Jason Pappas, president of Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, said he supports having cruiser videos. It can be evidence to support an officer's account of a case, or disprove a complaint about use of force.

Missing video, he noted, could breed distrust among the public.

"If we're not going to have a system that works properly, it's not worth having a system at all," Pappas said.

The Police Division surveyed 260 or so marked cruisers with dash cams on Wednesday night. Of those, 31 had no space left on the SD card, meaning that recorded video wasn't saved.

The SD cards in those 31 cruisers were replaced. The cards hold about 40 hours of footage. They begin to save video when an officer activates the lights and siren or transports a person in the cruiser.

Pappas said the division notified the city's department of technology, which oversees the server system, years ago of the approaching storage issue, but nothing was done.

"Now it's a crisis," he said.

Woods agreed that "we knew this day was coming. It came a little sooner than we anticipated."

A new server that should correct the problem is scheduled to be installed today. The cost of the equipment was not immediately available.

Pappas hopes the purchase will help not just the storage problem, but also issues that officers have with long upload times from the cruisers to the server.

"I have confidence that my chain of command and the leaders of the Division of Police want equipment to work properly and want the funding to make sure that happens," Pappas said. "I can't tell you from the (department of technology) side, who controls that stuff, that they have that same level of commitment."

Columbus has had cruiser cameras for about eight years. Woods said it's the first time there's been an issue like this.

The storage issue speaks to the difficulty that large police departments such as Columbus might encounter if they buy other devices, such as body cameras. Outfitting nearly 500 patrol officers with body cameras would necessitate lots more storage space and more money, Woods said.

"We have to have storage, and we have to pay for that storage," he said.

Copyright 2014 The Columbus Dispatch 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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