Dallas Police Reveal More Guidelines for Body Cams

Coming into focus.
Coming into focus.

Slowly but surely, the Dallas Police Department is developing a comprehensive policy for the 1,000 body cameras it intends to introduce into the field in the next five years. Tuesday morning, the Dallas City Council Public Safety committee will get its latest peek at new department standards before the full City Council votes on funding the program.

Two weeks ago, when DPD Chief David Brown first came to the council to ask for the money, the program raised two primary concerns: What to do with the massive amount of video sure to be generated by the cameras and how to maintain Dallas residents' privacy when they interact with police.

Initially, the department said that any video recorded would be kept for a minimum of 30 days. In the latest update to the body camera policy, that number has been upped to 90 days, assuming the video is not part of an ongoing investigation — in that case, the video would be kept indefinitely.

Video can only be released through the Open Records Unit unless Brown approves its release. DPD officers will also be allowed to review any video that exists of an incident before making a statement.

As for the privacy concerns, officers with cameras will be required to record all contact with civilians in which the officers are acting in an official law enforcement capacity. Things like car stops, field sobriety testings, pursuits, consensual searches, anticipated arrests and crimes in progress would all be taped. 

Officers would be allowed to deactivate their camera in personal spaces, like bathrooms or doctors' offices and when they are on break. Cameras would also be turned off if they might capture footage that could be used to identify an undercover officer. Any time an officer turns his or her camera off, he or she would have to announce why he or she was doing so.

The full City Council is expected to vote on funding for the program — about $3.7 million from city and grant funding — on Wednesday.


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