Shortly after midnight on Saturday, June 20, workers at a tavern in Lima called the Lima Police Department concerning a crowd of people congregating in their parking lot.
The events that followed resulted in The Lima News requesting video from the body cameras worn by the officers who responded to the call, as well as car camera video. Anyone can request these types of videos. It was the first time the newspaper made such a public records request since police officers began wearing body cameras 19 months ago.
What prompted the newspaper’s request was a video e-mailed to The Lima News on Sunday morning by a person who was in the parking lot when police arrived. In the email, the person wrote, “Here’s the video of the police altercation with (name of person). Clearly he wasn’t doing anything but standing at his vehicle when the police came over to his car.”
Several of us in the newsroom looked at the cell phone video that was attached. Each person agreed the quality of the footage wasn’t the best due to the glare from the lights of the squad car, the angle from which the video was taken, the type of camera in the cell phone, and the fact it was dark. However, we felt the incident, which was brought to our attention by a citizen, deserved to be looked into further.
Shortly after 9 o’clock Monday morning, The Lima News filed a records request asking the Lima Police Department for car camera video from all cruisers that were on the scene, body-cam video from all officers at the scene and a copy of the incident report. Our request noted, “The law requires that the records be made available within a reasonable time. We therefore would like to pick up the requested items by 3:30 pm Monday, June 22.”
Just over an hour later, Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin responded to the request. He was forthcoming, telling us, “Your request has been forwarded to our Records Bureau personnel. They will begin reviewing the requested records and redacting them in accordance with the Ohio Public Records Law (such as Social Security Numbers and other protected information). We will advise you when the records are ready to be picked up. This process will take longer than 3:30 today.”
By noon Tuesday, we received the information requested. We found the quality of the videos to be good. They showed a gun being taken from one of the individuals. In our opinion, the videos taken together showed no use of excessive force.
The written arrest report noted a male in the crowd was intoxicated and refused to follow officers’ orders. He was arrested for obstructing official business and resisting arrest. He was also found to be in possession of a loaded concealed weapon. A woman was also arrested for obstructing official business.
On Wednesday, we spoke again with Chief Martin. We noted there was footage from all of the officers’ cameras, although one camera had limited video.
Martin told us there was an intermittent problem with that officer’s camera that is being fixed. He pointed out the body cameras are linked to the cameras in an officer’s police cruiser and had it been turned off, it would have been indicated.
We also expressed our concern with the limited information on the incident report. He directed us to a report with more information.
The Lima News elected not to write a news story about the incident. From the additional videos we watched, it turned out to be a routine arrest that in our opinion appeared to be handled properly.
We are addressing the use of body cameras in this column, however, given the community’s interest in the use of body cameras by our local police force. It was the newspaper’s first time to request such information. We believe the Lima Police Department turned over the information in a reasonable amount of time and without hesitation.
We hope any future requests will be handled as quickly and openly. Transparency from government entities is needed now more than ever. It is the first step in trust.
ROSES AND THORNS: A new truck takes a drive through the rose garden.
Rose: The Lima Ford Engine Plant will be making the 3.3-liter and 2.7-liter V-6 engines for the newly redesigned 2021 F-150 pickup. The plant has steadily been growing its workforce and now has around 1,35o hourly employees, according to Mike Copeland, president of UAW Local 1219. The company Website lists 150 salaried workers, bringing its total work force to 1,500.
Rose: To Aubree Kaye, who is stepping down after serving 10 years as the executive director of Downtown-Lima Inc. She has worked with the organization for 17 years.
Rose: To Armeda and Russel Shark, of Spencerville, and Donna and Russell Palmer, of Elida. Both couples celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last week, being married on the same date, June 25, 1960.
Thorn: A 100-year-old building was lost to fire in downtown Lima on Tuesday.
Thorn: Much of the region will have a Fourth of July without fireworks.
PARTING SHOT: A vacation is a change of routine that makes you feel good enough to go back to work and poor enough to have to.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.