The Austin Police Department will begin its rollout of body-worn cameras to non-Downtown cops next week. At a Friday press conference, Chief Brian Manley said 190 cameras have already been sent to the department’s Eastside substation on Springdale, and should be strapped to the bodies of patrol officers as soon as they undergo standard testing.
In total, APD expects to receive 736 new body cameras. 234 will go on Nov. 2 to officers working out of the Downtown headquarters. Another 228 will hit its South substation (on Ralph Ablanedo) on Dec. 4, and a final round will get sent to APD’s North substation (on Lamplight Village) shortly after that.
Manley said that the full fleet has been briefed on departmental policies for the cameras, and their practices for use. There’s a prescribed spot on the uniform for officers to attach the cameras, and standard testing procedures they’re expected to employ to make sure that the cameras are working at the beginning of each shift.
Manley said the department took pains to ensure certain automations are set in place – so that the cameras work in tandem with dash-board video cameras in squad cars, turning on when the car door opens – but has advised that officers manually turn on the cameras often when they’re on the beat, to build muscle memory.
Storage and retention will adhere to state civil service laws; save for a few exceptions, the department expects to store footage for 181 days so as to comply with disciplinary statutes. Civilians requesting footage should anticipate the same standards for release as dash-cam footage, with increased restrictions for footage recorded inside of someone’s home. Officers will be expected to record most interactions, though they’ve been advised that they have discretion “to turn them off when appropriate” – like when they’re talking with a victim of abuse, or inside of a personal space. Officers are also expected to notify any individual that they’re being recorded, “unless doing so would make the encounter less safe.”
All told, Manley appeared excited about what’s coming. “This is not the end-all-be-all, but it is something we’ve wanted for a long time,” he said. “It will afford us another lens into interactions that take place through routine patrol activities.”
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