Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Body Worn Camera Informational Meeting | Houston Police Department | Liv...

HPD held a community meeting regarding the development of the Body Warn Camera policy. Above is the YouTube video of the meeting in its entirety which includes a presentation of the draft policy by Executive Assistant Chief Oettmeier, and a question and answer session.

Below is a transcript of the question and answer session. 

Please remember, HPD is looking for comments and suggestions about the development of the policy. You can email until Monday, October 26th, 2015 with your comments.

Body Worn Camera Press Conference

Speaker 1

Question: First speaker is the co-founder of the Southern Student Leadership Association, the organization he represents advocated for the use of body cameras, but they are not happy with the current policies that are governing the use of body cameras.
                He had two specific issues with the current policies:
1.       Whenever an officer engages in pursuit the body camera must be immediately activated as long as it is safe to do so.
-He is worried that this gives the officer too much discretion with when they should be turned on. He recommended that the policy that Mr. Stewart drafted would be more effective.
2.    Officers may deactivate the body camera when confirmed with other personnel regarding handling of an incident at the scenes of extended incidents or when no enforcement action is occurring, but must audibly note the reason for turning the camera off.

Speaker 2

Question: Speaker was not asking questions regarding the policies of body cameras.

Speaker 3

Question: Concerned with the fact that an officer can turn the camera off when in a non-confrontational meeting. He states that events can escalate quickly, and recommends that cameras must always be on, so that in the case of a dangerous random occurrence the officer isn’t worried with turning the camera on.
Answer: It is not ethically right to make an officer record themselves when they are using the restroom.
Question:  Suggests that a third party should be part of the auditing process for the released body camera footage.
Answer: Independent Police Oversight Board (IPOB) members have the option to join in the process of reviewing camera footage.

Speaker 4

Question: Asked a question about open records requests which did not pertain to the topic of body cameras.

Speaker 5

Question: When a prisoner is transported by a two man unit, it is required that only one camera needs to be activated during the transport. The speaker does not understand the benefit of turning one camera off.  He states in the event of an altercation, two cameras will capture two different angles.
Answer: This is something that will be looked at closer and taken into consideration. A body camera is not a substitute for one’s eyes. A camera can be affected by how much or how little light there is, and it will not always see what the officer sees.

Speaker 6­­­­­

Question: About the integrity of the video recordings. Suggests to remove some of the burden on HPD by having a third party civil organization store the video recordings. In the case of misuse of a recording, HPD cannot be held accountable. Speaker uses the example of the HPD crime lab being relocated.
Answer: Evidence has to be retrievable and accessible for the Harris County District Attorney’s office. Video evidence is no different than any other type of evidence. Our property room is full of police evidence that the public trusts us to keep safe until it is retrieved for court.
Question: To what discretion can an officer consider what he has recorded as evidence?
Answer: Evidence is anything that is recorded that can be used in the furtherance of an investigation or aid in a criminal or administrative investigation. Evidence is anything that will help us in court or at some other legal forum.
Answer: Most things at a crime scene will be considered evidence and when we take the video tape it will be considered evidence and will be stored and protected as such.
Answer: If an officer issues a citation and this process is caught on a body camera, that is considered evidence. Until you go to court or there is resolution on that charge or citation, the video tape will be kept.
Question: Supervisors have the management prerogative to review recordings of officers that have a pattern of allegations of misconduct.  Why would the supervisor have the prerogative whether to bring up or dismiss any type of body camera evidence which could be used in justifying misconduct?
Answer: The supervisor cannot delete or edit the footage. That paragraph means that there are many times that supervisors are assigned to new squads or personnel. We want our supervisors to be proactive. If I am a new Sargent and I am assigned to a new squad of officers, it is incumbent upon to me to know what is in those officers’ personnel files, what complaints they have had previously. Also, if I am supervising someone that is not under any type of active investigation, but has had a number of rudeness complaints, the supervisor has the management prerogative to review at least four or five of his videos a week.

Speaker 7

Question: Is there any room for a third party who could be doing some type of research on how the implementation of the body camera started from start to finish?
Answer: Is there room? Yes. It is being talked about. (Later added: We’ve already partnered with Texas Southern University to do the research you speak of.)
Question: There was an incident where a Sheriff’s deputy was working as a security guard at a local night club. There was a confrontation between a patron and club bouncer about the patron not being able to get in. In this instance, if the officer thought there was some type of discrimination or something was about to happen,  would that justify the officer to turn on his body camera?
Answer: Any time an officer believes there might be a confrontational situation, we hope the officer would turn the camera on and capture that event until it is concluded.

Speaker 8

Question: When did the body camera pilot program begin?
Answer: January 2014
Question: Did you all retain the data from it? What did you learn from it?
Answer: Yes we did keep the data. We learned many things. The camera needs to be positioned at the correct height. Officers of differing height have the camera recording at different levels. Stabilization was not the best. Body camera technology is constantly evolving and the cameras used did not have the best quality video.
Question: Were the officers following the policy?
Answer: Yes
Question: Did they always keep it on?
Answer: No, because the policy allows them to have some sort of discretion.
Question: While they were on the scene, did they always keep it on?
Answer: No, because the policy allows them to have that discretion.
Question: Do you think that they may have too much discretion?
Answer: Other speakers have alluded to the fact that this is something we need to look at. When an officer is enforcing the law, there is almost not situation I can think of where the camera should be turned off.
Question: How difficult is it to turn the body camera on?
Answer: It is very simple. I cannot talk about the new equipment or vendors that we are considering purchasing or purchasing from. The current body cameras have one button. You slide it down to expose the lens which turns it on, then you slide the button up to turn it off.

Speaker 9

Question: For the officers that work auto dealers and detail. While they are out investigating under chapter 8, will they be required to wear a camera?
Answer: It may get to that point. But, initially we have to start off with our uniformed officers, they are our highest priority. They are the first responders. Then we will have to talk about investigators and detectives at some other point. But right now, to get the infrastructure going and get this program implemented, it must be the uniformed officers first.

Speaker 10

Question: When are you actually expecting to start the body camera program?
Answer: There are some legal hurdles that we have to get through as far as contract issues and representing it to council members. But we are hoping that a contract can be executed before this year comes to close. Then beginning the first part of next year we will be able to bring the cameras on one station at a time. Best case scenario will be January or February of 2016.
Question: This is just a draft, but would it ever be something set in stone.

Answer: This is a draft. Anyone who did not get to comment tonight, please go on our website and send us your comments electronically. This is a draft policy that we are building now. When the policy is finalized and I sign off on it, this will be the only general order in the Houston Police Department. It will always remain open to the public on our website and will be constantly looked at to see if it needs to be reviewed, updated, or changed.