APD body camera request to include redaction software

(AP File Photo/Matt Rourke)
Body camera (AP File Photo/Matt Rourke)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – As City leaders edge closer to launching a Request for Proposals to supply up to 1,300 police officers with body-worn cameras starting later this year, details are emerging about how privacy and other concerns would be addressed, a brief to Austin’s Public Safety Committee shows.

The brief is a series of questions penned by Committee Chair Don Zimmerman and answered by police executives. Among the responses: how someone’s privacy – including that of bystanders would be protected.

Police write in the brief, “There will be occasions when individual’s faces need to be blurred out, IE. juveniles. Requesting built-in redaction software be included.”  As well, executives write the body camera must include the ability to manually start and stop recording. Ideally, the device replaces the body microphone with in-car video wireless audio.”

As for protecting informants, “Current Policy does not have special consideration for informants. We should have the ability to redact sensitive information from videos if needed,” the brief shows.

In a public records request APD would comply with state law. “A legal requirement for requesting footage includes:  A recording made in a private space or during a pedestrian or traffic stop may not be released without written authorization from the person who is the subject of the recording or, if the person is deceased, from the person’s authorized representative,” Police executives wrote.

As well, don’t look for an indicator light to show if the camera’s on. There won’t be a light because that could expose an officer’s position during dark conditions, the brief shows.

One of Council Member Zimmerman’s most pointed questions:  “And what if an officer deliberately fails to hit ‘record’ – If the “body camera” fails to capture the image of a police officer shooting and/or killing someone, what would be the policy for that?”

APD responded:  “APD Policy 303 and 304 Mobile Audio and video recording covers this and outlines when a camera will be used and when it can be turned off.  The discipline matrix varies according to the violation and ranges from a written reprimand to Indefinite Suspension.”

The discipline matrix varies for the violation committed:

  • Electronic Recording (DMAV, MAV) violation:
  • First offense‐ written reprimand up to 1‐3 day suspension
  • Second offense‐ increased one level
  • Third offense‐ increased one level

Intentional Electronic Recording (DMAV, MAV) violation:

  • first offense‐ 4‐15 day suspension
  • second offense‐ increase one level
  • third offense‐ increase one level

Intentional Electronic Recording (DMAV, MAV) violation at a criminal incident:

  • first offense‐ Indefinite suspension

Another goal is to have a minimum 10 hour battery life (one shift). Based on research, most officers use approx. 2 hours of record time per shift. Officers will be required to charge the device and download videos at the end of their shift.

City council agreed to fund the first phase of the body cam project in this year’s budget. All officers assigned to patrol, highway enforcement, parks, special operations and organized crime (approx. 1,300) are included in the rollout plan for being issued cameras. Additional cameras will be available for checkout for anyone else as needed.

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