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Thursday, December 13, 2018

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UHPD considers implementing body cameras


Body Cams

Body cameras and data storage systems are expensive: $8 million to equip HPD, with $2.8 planned into next year’s city budget by Mayor Annise Parker. | Getty Images

In the wake of national headlines of police using what some call unnecessary force, the White House has urged law enforcement agencies around the country to increase use of body cameras.

According to UHPD Chief of Staff Lt. Bret Collier, only time will tell if they will make the transition to arming officers with body cameras.

“Letting technology get ahead of policy is never a good idea, so our approach is a measured one,” Collier said. “There is a growing pool of data from around the county, so when we do make a decision, we can be confident we are doing the right thing for our community.”

This past year, Houston police officers field-tested body cameras for two months, reporting an overall positive experience, according to a Houston Chronicle report.

But some officers view cameras as a distraction in the line of duty, attributing a reluctance to use force when officers know the cameras are rolling, and complaining of “vague guidelines” when using the cameras.

Unlike dash cams, which can be switched on automatically, body cams must be physically turned on by officers before interactions, and officers are to use discretion on when to film to ensure privacy, according to the report.

Collier said that his organization is looking at body cameras positively, hoping that they work out, but won’t be acquiring cameras themselves until they can find the best ways to manage the privacy concerns of community members.

“Capturing a scene from the officers’ perspective can provide valuable insight that would otherwise be unavailable,” Collier said.

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