First, we here in Hamilton County learned that all dash camera footage for 130 Hamilton County patrol deputies taken between Oct. 25, 2018, and Jan. 23, 2020, was lost after a software failure on Jan. 13.
Then we learned from Sheriff Jim Hammond that the footage could not be recovered, as only one nearly 13-year-old server was used to store the videos.
This week we listened as Hammond asked the Hamilton County Commission for a $4.5 million technology agreement to safeguard data after that "catastrophic" loss.
Why is it catastrophic? Because it is evidence that now is gone — except for some downloaded to court officials who already had requested it for a few cases. Defense lawyers and the Hamilton County District attorney have said the loss potentially jeopardizes criminal and civil cases. In the wake of that loss, Hammond and other members of the sheriff's department have come to the commission — that's to us, the taxpayers — to pitch suggestions for how to improve data storage. Improve it now that the chickens have flown the coop.
"We've known that we had to migrate toward something better in technology, which is always an evolving concept," Hammond said Wednesday.
But then Hammond took a page from our president's book on deflection, obfuscation and finger-pointing. He tried to blame the media because he and his department look bad — particularly at a time when the whole of Hamilton County is under scrutiny for how it handles records. One local attorney has filed an open records lawsuit against the county, and another has repeatedly accused the county of slow-walking records requests to run out the statute of limitations. A citizen also has accused the county of stonewalling records requests, and the county attorney's office destroyed records sought by a Times Free Press reporter.
"There's a story out there that we've lost everything we had, specifically stuff going on as it pertains to lawsuits or criminal investigations. That is not true," Hammond said. "We had already downloaded that before the data loss ... so contrary to popular belief, for cases that are ongoing in either a civil matter or a criminal matter, we retained that, and it's secured with the district attorney or wherever it needs to be."
We guess a number of defense attorneys and the district attorney told commissioners they had case problems when they really did not? And, speaking for the taxpayers, if this were not a big problem, why is it a now a $4.5 million ask?