Cop photos

A Richland Source reader, though Open Source, recently asked why every Mansfield police officer doesn't carry a digital camera to use at crime and accident scenes to collect evidence. (PxHere photo)

Editor's note: This article was written in response to a reader-submitted question. Do you have a question you'd like our readers to look into? Share it here.

MANSFIELD -- Mansfield police Chief Keith Porch was blunt when asked a recent question posed through Open Source by a Richland Source reader.

"Why don't all the Mansfield police have access to their own cameras? I'm constantly hearing on the scanner that an officer needs a camera. It seems like it wastes manpower and time to share?"

"It comes down to money," the chief said. "I would love to be able to issue each officer their own camera for use."

Instead, he said, patrol officers share about seven to 10 digital cameras, each one costing about $700.

"These are decent cameras," he said, "but they are not the quality used by staff members in the crime lab."

Keith Porch

Mansfield police Chief Keith Porch (Richland Source file photo)

The chief, who said the cameras undergo a lot of wear and tear in the field, recently purchased seven new ones.

The scanner traffic heard by the Richland Source reader is not unusual, according to Porch.

"It's a combination of some officers who forget to take them out (when their shift begins) and the fact we share them," he said. "Citizens will hear officers calling for other officers who have a camera."

Using cameras to collect evidence is not as easy as an office snapping photos, pulling the card and printing his or her own photos. The cameras used by the MPD puts a date and time stamp on each image.

Police crime scene

Photo illustration by Pixabay.com

"The chain-of-evidence requirements are that the officers turn in the entire camera to the crime lab, which will process the photos and then return the cameras to the patrol.

"We will (still) have defense attorneys who will ask, 'Was this photo altered in any way? Was the time stamp right?' " the chief said.

Officers also cannot use their own Smartphones for such photos, unless it's a situation where the evidence is short-lived and there is no other alternative, according to Porch, who said any officer who has to take photos that way must immediately notify a supervisor.

It used to be department policy that only supervisors or crime lab staff could take photos at scenes, the chief said. The department also had just three cameras.

"As a patrol officer, if I was at the scene of even a minor accident, and needed to take photos, I would have to call for my supervisor or the crime lab," the chief said.

"Now it's based off the seriousness of the incident. We have a policy that indicates when the crime lab will need to process a scene -- usually serious crimes, fatalities, homicides.

"Burglaries, damaged property, accidents ... these can by photographed by the officer at the scene," Porch said.

"Ideally, every officer would have their own camera," the chief said. "That's just one of about 300 needs for the police department."

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"