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Columbus Police "Inadvertently Deleted" Thousands Of Hours Of Dash Cam Footage

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The Columbus Division of Police is working to recover tens of thousands of lost cruiser video files that the department believes were "inadvertently deleted."

Approximately 100,000 files of police cruiser video were deleted, according to the department.

The Columbus Police Technical Services Bureau learned about the mass deletion of cruiser video footage on March 13.

Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs says a veteran police officer was attempting to remove old classifications the department used before the end of 2015 to search for videos.

The officer believed the video would switch to the newer classification system the department now uses.

“Instead of transferring over to the new system, the settings defaulted to a 90-day retention schedule," Jacobs says. "And because most of them were from 2015, they automatically purged to that 90-day retention schedule."

Later that night, the department says the system purged 100,000 video files without warning the officer. According to Jacobs, the department didn't find out until 12 hours after the videos had been deleted - and immediately began working to recover them.

They haven't been able to so far.

“We'll continue to look at that potential and talking to vendors about that kind of recovery, what type of recovery we could expect, and then whether or not it would be fiscally responsible to achieve that recovery process," Jacobs says.

Most of the deleted video footage is from 2015. Jacobs says less than 500 of the 100,000 video files were from 2016. Backseat investigations make up about 24,000 of the videos, with another large chunk coming from misdemeanor traffic stops.

Columbus Police say they are working to add checks and balances to prevent this sort of accident from happening again. According to Jacobs, an extra step in the system will allow users to double-check with software before changes are made.

“We're also going to have a planned change," Jacobs says, "where that person who plans to make the change will do a check and balance with somebody else and say, 'This is what I'm doing, this is my intention. This is why I wanna do it. This is what I expect to happen. Do you agree? Do you approve?’ All of that."

The Franklin County Prosecutor and Columbus City Attorney have been notified of the incident. The Columbus Division of Police believes few pending cases will be affected because video is usually requested by detectives within days.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.