Thursday, January 27, 2022

Latest Report Raises Concerns with Austin Police Department’s Body-Worn and In-Car Cameras

Today 01-27-2022, the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) released a report analyzing Austin Police Department (APD) policies related to body-worn cameras (BWC) and in-car cameras (DMAV) in response to the Austin City Council resolutions passed in June 2020. The report, “Body-Worn Cameras & Dashboard Cameras: Policy Review and Recommendations” examines APD’s current policies in these areas and discusses how current guidelines compare to national best practices in policing. OPO’s research revealed that APD’s policies do not align with national best practices. Further, the report proposes changes to improve safety for both the community and police officers.

“Body-worn and in-car cameras represent a significant investment from the City of Austin,” said an OPO spokesperson. “It is critical that Austin police officers fully utilize these tools to ensure officer and community member safety is prioritized,” they explained. 

Some concerns about these policies that OPO’s report addresses include:

  1. Reliance on policies from Lexipol leads to vague guidelines and removes community from the policymaking process
  2. The current purpose statements governing body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras do not align with the City of Austin’s Reimagining Public Safety initiative
  3. APD policy needs to be revised to align with recent state legislation and provide more clarity where state law is lacking
  4. The current concepts and definitions related to body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras are unclear
  5. The current General Orders allow too much officer discretion in activating and deactivating body-worn cameras
  6. Current General Orders do not require officers to document their use of body-worn or dashboard cameras in an incident report or case file
  7. The title “Advisement & Consent” for General Order 303.3.2 does not reflect its content
  8. The current General Orders do not require supervisors to conduct inspections of dashboard camera recordings
  9. The current General Orders do not support consistency or transparency in enforcement and discipline
As part of a three-phase approach, OPO will host a series of virtual public events in February, including an educational presentation on current APD body-worn camera and dashboard camera policies. Meetings will be multilingual – English, Spanish, and American Sign Language – with other languages available upon request. To learn more or to register, click here
Events will take place at 6:00 p.m.(CST) on the following dates:
  • February 23, 2022 
  • March 2, 2022  
  • March 9, 2022 
  • March 16, 2022
Additionally, OPO will collect feedback with a multilingual survey on SpeakUp Austin. The deadline to complete the survey is April 1, 2022. 

Stay informed and learn more about how to participate in these events by subscribing to OPO’s newsletter.  OPO is providing additional updates on their social media channel and website.