CLEVELAND - The FOX 8 I TEAM has uncovered the story you haven’t seen about police body cameras. Specifically, what’s happening when they’re not rolling during police encounters on the streets.
The I TEAM has found body camera violations popping up on Cleveland Police discipline notices.
In recent months, a couple of Cleveland officers faced internal charges for not recording, or, for stopping recording “prior to completion of an investigation.”
A few others faced internal charges for not having their cameras. “Failed to safeguard and secure the equipment (cameras).”
Union President Steve Loomis argues there’s nothing sinister. He calls the cameras “…a great tool.” Loomis says some officers lost cameras that fell off as they ran after bad guys. And he says officers may get in trouble for not recording even though they don’t have time to start rolling. Loomis said, "So if that thing is not on, something happened, so quickly, they didn't have a chance, they had to react, or, they thought it was on, they hit the button and they thought it was on."
As for punishment, the I TEAM checked. We found disciplinary letters and verbal counseling. Plus, one officer had to pay back the city, and we found one case of internal charges dismissed.
Mike Nelson, a defense attorney and President of the NAACP said, "And they have to understand that they have a new level of responsibility." Nelson says the video from the body cameras of the officers is critical for justice. He added, "It’s to protect them and to protect the accused. And if they don't follow all those protocols, it defeats the purpose."
Loomis contends officers are glad they have the cameras, but they also feel handcuffed by lengthy and detailed policies.
We wanted to find out more about why one officer had to pay back the city, as well as more about cameras that were somehow lost. City Hall refused to answer questions. Instead, we were told we’d have to file public records requests which often take months and months.
We also asked for comment from the Chief’s office for this story. There was no response.