Houston Chief Talks Tough on Police Body Cams

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Photo by Jobs for Felons Hub via Flickr

Houston’s new Chief of Police Art Acevedo has pledged to make some changes to the department’s body-camera program after a KHOU investigation revealed it has fallen short of its promises.

The chief said one of his top priorities is setting high expectations on recording video as department policy requires.

“I want to make it very clear to our men and women that if they have a critical incident and they don’t have that thing on, and without excuse or justification, they’re going to have some significant consequences,” Acevedo said.

That warning comes after KHOU 11 Investigates discovered several problems in the early months of HPD’s body-camera program.

The Harris County District Attorney’s office identified more than 700 cases with missing or unaccounted body-camera video.

HPD also failed to audit videos as outlined in department policy.

Also, in a July 9 fatal shooting of an armed man, two officers wearing body cameras didn’t press “record” until after the man was already dying in the street.

“We need to see the whole picture, the true picture,” Acevedo said.

The new chief said he hopes to harness technology to do just that.

“I think eventually what you’re going to see is a system with automatic triggering capabilities,” he said.

Acevedo required automatic triggers when developing Austin’s body-camera program, where he served as chief for more than nine years.

In Austin patrol cars, any time an officer opens his car door, a wireless sensor automatically activates the body camera. The same technology can be used to activate cameras when emergency lights and sirens are turned on.

“If you get the right technology, you can save money, save time, increase transparency, and build trust, and that’s my goal,” Acevedo said.

The chief did not provide a timetable for his goal, only to say “sooner rather than later.”

A shift in policy would likely need the support of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, which did not return requests for comment.

Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said in a text, “We are not opposed to automatic triggers.”

This story is reprinted with the permission of KHOU-Houston. For the full report and video, please click HERE. Readers comments welcome.

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