A group of ministers is demanding a federal investigation to determine the full extent of recorded evidence withheld by Akron police.
The Rev. Gregory Harrison, representing a group of Baptist ministers, spoke to Akron City Council on Monday night and urged members to request an investigation of former Akron police officer Donald Schismenos as well as Summit County prosecutors.
The reaction follows a Beacon Journal investigation detailing a two-year probe of the officer’s recording of his arrests and the concealment of those audio and video recordings from defense attorneys.
Harrison, a former Akron police officer, said the videos released so far appear to show a “pattern of blatant civil rights violations by some members of the Akron police department” and acts of complicity by county prosecutors for failing to release the recordings to defendants.
Prosecutors have so far acknowledged contacting only one defendant out of dozens — if not hundreds — supposedly recorded by Schismenos. The oldest video so far has dated back to 1996.
A spokeswoman for Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh did not comment Monday.
“The videos don’t lie. The recordings don’t lie. I think it’s time an independent body take a look at the videos and catalogue the recordings and let the people and those in charge of civil rights determine if any laws or civil rights were violated,” Harrison said.
So far, two Akron men have come forward contending that withheld videos of their arrests would have aided them in their defense. An attorney representing the men only viewed the recordings after they were released to the Beacon Journal through a public records request.
Police Chief James Nice told Harrison that the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice has already looked at the police internal investigation as well as the work by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Nice said he contacted federal authorities immediately when he first uncovered the recordings in 2011. He said the “complete investigation” was conducted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Akron police conducted an internal investigation that led to Schismenos’ separation from the department in December.
A grand jury declined to indict Schismenos for theft charges related to his possession of evidence stored at his home.
It is unclear if any action was taken to ensure that no discovery or constitutional violations may have occurred due to the withholding of the video and audio recordings.
In addition, Akron police and prosecutors have yet to release a full accounting of all the viewed recordings, which some familiar with the investigation say number in the hundreds.
In an interview last week, Nice said prosecutors were shown about 10 to 12 recordings dating around 2009-2011.
Nice told Harrison he was basing his request on limited information .
“From the very day — the very day — I personally found out about the actions on those tapes I involved the Department of Justice,” Nice said.
Nice said he saw a conflict of interest for his department to perform a criminal investigation and contacted the Attorney General’s Office.