LIMA — When allegations of abuse surfaced in 2016 by multiple citizens, it sparked the LPD’s interest in the purchase of the body cameras. Following several months researching vendors and use, the LPD was pleased with the decision to move forward with them.
Since the implementation of body cameras in 2018 by the Lima Police Department, “we have had zero complaints of physical abuse at the hands of local law enforcement, because they exact accountability and serve as a deterrent,” said Ronald Fails, president of the Lima Chapter of the NAACP, during a press conference Saturday at The Grace Church Worldwide Ministries, located at 2945 Wells Drive, in Lima.
The purpose of engaging the media is to inform the public about the the local chapter of the NAACP’s advocacy for the purchase and use of body cameras by the Allen County Sheriff’s department. It and the SWAT team stand alone as the only remaining area law enforcement agencies not yet using the technology.
In addition to the city’s use of body cameras, at the state level, beginning November 2021, Gov. Mike DeWine made it a requirement for all Ohio State Highway Patrol officers to create greater transparency.
Fails said the Lima chapter of the NAACP recently received a complaint alleging abuse by the Allen County SWAT team, and that due to the lack of body camera videos, the chapter’s mandated investigation was hampered and a determination could not be made.
As of January 2019, with the passage of H.B. 425, footage from body cameras and cruiser dash cameras is considered public record. Had SWAT been wearing them, that information could have been used to make a determination about the alleged abuse.
“Officers said one thing and the young man said something altogether different,” Fails said. In this case, the alleged victim was carried into another room out of sight of the testifying witness. “All she could testify to us was what she heard, saying it and it was evident he was being abused and being beaten … We’re a civil rights organization and it’s our responsibility to fight for the civil rights of all citizens, including those in law enforcement. We feel the best way to avoid being falsely accused … or avoid being abused is to put proper systems in place that will hold everyone accountable.”
“The problem with not having video footage is, ‘Who do you believe’?” said Fails.
Fails acknowledged people’s inherent desire for self-protection and their willingness to lie — whether it be a suspect trying to avoid charges, or an officer protecting his or her job.
“The meetings thus far have been very productive, and we appreciate the relationship we have with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department … Body cameras protect the public from abuse, and they protect local law enforcement from false allegations.”
Reach Shannon Bohle at 567-242-0399, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Bohle_LimaNews.