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Some APD Officers Are Already Using Body Cameras

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ACLU of Washington via Texas Tribune
Though the Austin Police Department hasn't formally rolled out its body camera program, some officers are using personally-purchased body cameras on patrols.

The Austin Police Department is moving ahead on plans to start wearing body cameras next summer, but some officers are already recording their actions on the beat. 

There are 25 officers already wearing body cams, and APD Commander Eli Reyes says they've already created rules for the privately purchased equipment.

“We developed a policy that would allow officers to purchase body cameras on their own and be able to use those during their shift,” Reyes said. “And then those recordings are subject to the same rules of evidence as any other recording will be.”

APD policy states that any officer going out and buying a body camera needs to tell his or her supervisor. Additionally, officers can’t record other officers without their consent, and all recordings are subject to review. Even though these are body cameras paid for by officers, APD policy states footage containing evidence in a case needs to be handed over.

Once APD starts issuing its own body cameras, officers will have to do away with their personal ones, a requirement of a new state law passed this year.

At an APD forum on the project on Monday, Reyes said the department will distribute 500 cameras to officers by the end of the 2016 fiscal year, doling out the first cameras to officers working in the downtown and Central Austin areas.

Many questioned the recording protocols for officers, specifically, when officers could turn a camera off.

“They can only turn it off once all law enforcement action is concluded,” said APD Commander Eli Reyes. “Like, if it’s a crash, and they’ve interviewed everyone, and they’re just waiting for a tow truck, and no more law enforcement action is likely to occur, then they can turn it off in that instance.”

The department will hold another public forum before finalizing its policy on body cameras.

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