Over the past several months, Houston Justice Coalition members have been working with Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and his command staff to make sure community members have a voice in the decision-making process with regard to body mounted cameras for deputies and community policing.
Here's a general summary of what they have so far:
Body Worn Digital Recording Systems (BWDRS) Pilot Program
The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines for the Body Worn Digital Recording Systems (BWDRS) Pilot Program and the equipment assigned for capturing audio/video evidence with BWDRS of law enforcement/detention operation interactions.
All participating employees shall make a recording of all events as outlined in the procedures established, and maintain recorded evidence.
All audio/video recordings are considered the property of the HCSO.
Only approved devices issued by the HCSO or approved by bureau commanders can be used.
Copying of any audio/video files generated by the HCSO is prohibited.
Distribution of video files must comply with the procedures established in the policy.
Any action intentionally made to hamper any recording or to erase any existing recording shall be subject to discipline including possible termination.
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). o 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.
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.
o 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.