COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Federal authorities have agreed to re-examine whether a former Akron police officer broke any laws when he used a pen camera clipped to his shirt pocket to record arrests and other police activities.
Donald Schismenos, 47, used the pen camera and a dashboard camera to record thousands of hours of video and audio, along with photographs, that were found on a police computer system in July 2011. Schismenos was placed on paid leave the following month and resigned in December 2013.
The discovery of the files led to investigations by Akron police, the Summit County prosecutor’s office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, along with reviews by the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland. No disciplinary action was taken against Schismenos and no criminal charges were filed.
The latest investigation comes at the request of Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, who in a statement referred to Schismenos’ recordings as “rogue actions.” Akron ministers complained about Schismenos’ activities after a series of articles about the former officer appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal.
Schismenos used the pen camera to not only record police activities but also discussions with colleagues and court proceedings, including one in federal court where recording devices are not permitted, a county official said.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, investigators found nearly 2,000 videos and 38,000 images that Schismenos had uploaded to police computers. The files were found after the computer system began acting sluggish because Schismenos’ files took up one-third of its storage capacity.
Schismenos could not be reached for comment. His attorney did not return phone calls from The Associated Press.
After the discovery of the files, Akron police and the Summit County prosecutor’s office asked the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to review the recordings to determine if any were relevant to the 370 felony cases Schismenos had worked on, said Brad Gessner, chief counsel for the Summit County prosecutor’s office.
Gessner said there was only one case for which BCI investigators found video files that could have helped a defendant. Schismenos provided prosecutors with video and audio files for some cases at the time charges were filed, Gessner said.
In a letter, Plusquellic asked the U.S. attorney’s office to take another look at Schismenos’ actions. “We have not been informed whether your office did a full investigation of this matter,” the mayor’s letter said.
U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach announced the new probe in a statement.
“The FBI was previously asked to review two tapes, which were determined to not constitute criminal violations. We understand that, as a result of the information that has come to light this week, the FBI has been asked to review additional information about which our state and local law enforcement partners have expressed some concern,” the statement said. “Along with the FBI, we will review any information that is presented to us that could constitute evidence of a federal criminal violation.”
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