Tech is all around us and helps in various aspects of our lives. This can include the need to build a defense if charged with a crime. The availability of video recordings in everything from our own cell phones to security cameras throughout most neighborhoods can provide valuable information. Another potentially useful source: body cameras.
What are body cameras?
Officers throughout the country use body cameras. The New Braunfels Police Department recently announced that they are updating their systems this year with new body-worn cameras as well as in-car systems. The new systems include a larger, panoramic view and automatically upload into a cloud-based storage system. This eliminates the need to use servers to store footage.
Officers can activate the system by hitting a button. Cameras within the vehicle will automatically activate when a sensor notes a person in the backseat.
How do officers use the data gathered by these cameras?
The rules guiding how officer use these cameras can vary by state, city, and county. Nearby San Antonio Police Department provides an example. They have a policy in place that instructs all officers with “properly functioning body worn cameras” to record all events. Recording should begin when an officer observes suspicious or potentially criminal behavior and continue through arrest or traffic stop as well as during any pursuits. The policy also calls for recording in the event of a witness transport, service of a warrant, during a search, or whenever the officer has reason to believe the recording could provide evidence to support an investigation.
The department will then use the recording as evidence in the event of criminal prosecution.
Is the camera always recording?
There are instances when the policy instructs an officer to stop or mute recordings. Examples include when working with undercover officers, during a personal break, or when the officer believes the duties are unlikely to result in information relevant to a case. The officer is required to provide an explanation for any stop or muting.
Can I see what the officer recorded?
Those who wish to view the recording must follow specific protocol to request a copy. This can be done through a defense attorney to the appropriate prosecutor. The department will retain recordings for a set amount of time. This time limit is generally determined based on the type of the recording. The San Antonio Department, for example, will often keep traffic incidents recordings for two years and those connected to a felony for ten to fifty years depending on the offense.