Earle setting policy for police body cameras
City will provide officers, community with added layer of protection, accountability
Earle Police Department has received the last of its body cameras and will have enough to equip each officer. Now it’s up to the City Council to decide on whether they approve of the new proposed policy on how they will be used.
Hallmark passed out a copy of the body cam policy for council to look at and asked them to come back in August with their input and any changes they would like to make so he can make it official.
“We got the others in,” Hallmark said. “Now we just want to get that policy in place.”
The new policy will require all Earle police officers wear body cameras whenever they have a traffic stop, respond to a call, or make contact with the public. Officers will be allowed to review the footage, but no footage will be removed from the cameras until it is reviewed by the chief. If the footage needs to be reviewed for evidence purposes, the chief or an appointed supervisor will be the only ones allowed to upload footage from the body cameras into the police database or to burn it onto a CD for court. Body cameras must also be made available to the chief upon request. Failure to comply with the policy will result in disciplinary action.
The city recently purchased two new body cameras, which cost about $200 apiece, and now have enough for all of its officers, including part-time officers.
Councilman Robert Udell raised some concerns about who will have access to the footage and how it will be stored.
“You will look at it and delete it?” Udell asked.
Hallmark said none of the footage will be deleted.
The footage will be uploaded to the database and stored once the cameras reach their storage limit.
“It won’t be deleted,” Hallmark said. “The cameras only hold so much data. So once it gets close to being full the officers will let me know. I will then upload it to the server. It then saves it to a file.
So we will take it off the camera, but it will stay on the computer.
Udell asked Hallmark about who would have access to the footage.
“You’re saying nobody else can tamper with that?” Udell said. Hallmark said he is the only one who will be able to access the footage on the cameras, but he can still give somebody else in the department access if the need arises.
“It says nobody else can access the footage except by an administrator,” Hallmark said. “And that will be me unless I appoint somebody if I am out.”
Udell said he would like to see some tighter safeguards be put in place instead of just having the chief have access to the footage.
“I think we need somebody else to look at those films,” Udell said. “We need something in place.”
Councilwoman Jimmie Barham said she would like to see safeguards put in place to make sure that the cameras are returned in the event an officer leaves the department for another job.
“We have lost a lot of things like that – including guns,” Barham said.
Hallmark said he is in the process of building each officer a locker where the cameras will be stored along with other city owned property that is issued to them.
“You don’t take them home,” Hallmark said.
“They will stay here. We will be having a locked case for each officer where they can put their equipment and nobody else can get to it. They will have a key and I will have a key.
That will be the only ones who have a key. It will be locked when they leave and they will have to unlock it when they come in.”
Hallmark said he will also make each officer sign a form acknowledging receipt of all city owned equipment and a statement that they will be held financially liable for any equipment that is not returned to the department at the end of their employment.
“They will have to read the policy and sign it and it will go in their file,” Hallmark said. “So if there is any problems when they leave – even if they have a part like a charger – they will be liable for whatever is not in there in that box and will be billed for it.”
The council will vote on the body camera policy at its August meeting
“ I don’t want to see it get to a situation where they come up with excuses of why they don’t have them. They should be required to use one of these, or have each camera assigned to them… Just like you have your gun on you, you ought to have a camera. It protects them as well as the citizens.” — Earle Police Chief David Hallmark