In the last several years, police departments have harnessed the technological advancements in body worn cameras by equipping their police officers, with the aim of better documenting its encounters with the public for better case management and prosecution, and to address community relations concerns.
Beginning in July 2019, The University of Texas Police at Houston (UT Police) began training police officers, detectives and investigators on how to operate body-worn cameras. The body-worn cameras operate on a platform that uses a secure encrypted connection to a cloud-based storage solution. Implementation of the body-worn cameras aim to improve transparency and strengthen community relations.
Training is ongoing with a completion goal of late August. A date for implementing the use of body-worn has been set for August 19.
All uniformed officers will be required to wear body-worn cameras as part of their issued equipment. Investigators and detectives also will be issued body-worn cameras to aid in crime scene investigations and interviews.
Many police agencies are discovering that body-worn cameras can serve as a useful training tool to help improve officer performance. Officer activities and behavior captured by body-worn cameras — either through self-initiated investigations or those that result from calls for service — can be evaluated for training opportunities and advance professionalism among officers and new recruits.
UT Police anticipates that body-worn cameras will significantly improve the way its officers capture evidence for investigations, thereby helping to streamline the process for collecting information to aid investigators and detectives resolve criminal investigations. As such, body-worn cameras can provide a record of interviews and actions, as well as what officers witness at crime scenes.
Several considerations will be made when implementing the new policy. As an agency serving two patient-centered institutions, UT Police will address patient privacy in the implementation of the body-worn cameras.
Officers and records personnel will have the ability to redact video in order to protect patient privacy, and can consider when to begin recording based on a number of factors, with the general expectation that recording will be activated for significant police interactions with the community and performing any law enforcement function.
Like other new forms of technology, body-worn cameras have the potential to transform the field of policing. First and foremost, the ultimate purpose of these cameras is to help officers protect and serve the community.