#HouJustice Works with Sheriff on Body Camera Policy

As both the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff's Department both move closer toward body mounted cameras for law enforcement personnel, Houston Justice supporters like yourself need to be involved in the decision-making process before policy is adopted that govern the use of the devices. 

Last week, we met with Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and members of his command staff and administration leaders and had the opportunity to review footage from their pilot program.  While reviewing the footage, it's easy to see the differences between vendors that would potentially provide the devices for the department.  For instance, there's a major difference when it comes to placement of the body camera.  Here's a snippet of the summary of the policy.

PROCEDURES:

 Deputies/Detention Officers shall begin recording the following events and continue recording until it is concluded. Any deviations will require a supervisor’s approval and must be documented in the Deputy’s report of CFS (field notes).

 

Observations of suspicious behavior, arrests, field contacts, traffic stops, prisoner or witness transports, cell extraction, planned inmate movement, uncooperative inmates, canine searches, other significant events as determined by the watch commander, contact with complainant regarding crimes against persons, and in instances where the deputy of staff member reasonably believes that the recording may provide evidence in a criminal or internal investigation.

 Subsequent arrest, handcuffing and searches should take place in view of the camera.

 Deputy may stop record an event where its use may compromise law enforcement operations. All stoppage must be documented.

o Examples include but are not limited to: conversations with informants, private conversations between deputies and command personnel, traffic control, crime scene investigations.

 Personnel shall not:

o Create recordings of other employees in areas where reasonable expectation of privacy exists (ie locker rooms), clandestinely record the voice or image of another member of the department unless authorized, knowingly record undercover officers of confidential informants, use devices for personal activities, allow non-sworn personnel to view video without the permission of a supervisor,

create recordings of patient care areas in medical facilities, intentionally record juveniles.

 Unless otherwise permitted, once the recording device is activated, it shall remain on until the incident has concluded.

 Deputies will upload video in accordance with the specific device’s operational instructions.

 All requests for copies or records of BWDRS recordings shall be referred to the Sheriff’s Office Video Evidence Custodian, who will be responsible for compliance with all Sheriff’s Office procedures.

COMPLAINTS:

 When a complaint is received alleging misconduct involving a deputy who is assigned a BWDRS, the following shall be followed: o The video of the public contact in question shall be reviewed and a determination made as to whether there is cause for the allegation. o If no cause is found, the investigator will contact the complainant and advise that the BWDRS was reviewed and no misconduct occurred. o The investigator shall advise the complaining party that they may make a public records request for a copy of the recording.

- If the investigating authority finds the recording supports or indicates a possible violations of Sheriff’s Office policy or state law, established procedures to ensure a proper investigation of all allegations of misconduct shall be adhered to.

This summary is provided for information purposes only, and does not constitute official Harris County Sheriff’s Office policy. All final policies are subject to TPIA and CALEA compliance.

One of our initial concerns was understanding which interactions would/should require the deputy to use the body camera.  We were pleased to see that during their pilot program deputies used the camera in all interactions with the exception of the carvouts above.  

We'll roll out more details and take your comments/suggestions at the next #HouJustice meeting in March.