KPRC addresses an important question.
HPD has been running a pilot program regarding body cameras for more than a year. 100 officers are currently wearing a body camera. The department has yet to finalize a policy on the use of these cameras and the retention of video.
As it stands now, each officer is responsible for turning on the camera and recording an incident and then downloading the video and the end of every shift. Each camera records up to four hours of video.
HPD officers wearing these cameras are also required to check a series of categories indicating what type of incidents they recorded during a shift. HPD officials said “use of force” incidents are flagged in the system and the video is immediately reviewed.
HPD is not deleting any video at this point. HPD also has not given a specific time frame as to when these cameras will be implemented depart wide.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia put 38 body cameras on the streets and is still crafting policy. Garcia has said he wants a full implementation within 90 days. Garcia’s is also experimenting with different types of cameras that can be mounted on the head, chest or shoulder.
Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen began a pilot program 5 months ago with three cameras. Rosen says the cameras are deployed during all tactical assignments and when high risk warrants are served.
Rosen’s office is also experimenting with different types of cameras and whether an officer will be responsible for turning on the cameras or a having system where the cameras are turned on automatically during a call. The Precinct 1 Constable’s is saving all video for 90 days unless part of a complaint or criminal case.
“I think it’s also going to help the public understand what we go through on a daily basis, the split second decisions law enforcement has to make,” said Rosen. “The public has to have confidence in its police.”
See here and here for some background. I hope HPD finalizes its policies soon. I would prefer for there to be clear rules about when cameras are to be in operation, with clear and enforceable consequences for not following those rules. We also need to know who will have access to the data, how long it will be kept, and what the process will be for requesting a specific video or set of videos. I’m sure there are some best practices out there that can be copied, so copy away. This has the potential to do a lot of good, but we have to do it right and ensure that everyone has confidence in it.