Are All Police Encounters Videotaped in TX?
No. Not all police encounters are videotaped in TX. While the state has a body-worn camera policy, it is not mandatory. Only seven states currently require the statewide use of body-worn cameras by the police. These states include South Carolina, New Mexico, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Connecticut, and Colorado. Texas does have laws specific to body-worn cameras and recording police encounters.
Texas Body-Worn Camera Laws
The following laws apply to body-worn cameras and police encounters:
- Officers can elect not to activate their body-worn cameras during non-confrontational encounters.
- Officers wearing body-worn cameras can opt to turn off the camera or stop a recording that’s currently in progress for encounters with an individual that’s not linked to an investigation.
- Officers who do not turn on their body-worn camera when they respond to calls for assistance must state in their incident report or include in their case record or file the reason for not turning on the camera.
- Officers who are equipped with body-worn cameras and participating actively in an investigation must keep their cameras turned on for the entirety of their active participation unless the camera has been turned off in compliance with existing policies.
- Any reason for not turning on the body-worn camera because it’s impracticable, unrealistic, or unsafe must be based on whether another reasonable officer would have kept the camera turned off under similar or the same circumstances.
- Officers are permitted to access footage from body-worn cameras before they make a statement regarding the recorded incident.
- Footages from body-worn cameras cannot be accessed by the public except when they’re used as evidence in criminal cases.
- Any footage from body-worn cameras that depicts an officer’s use of deadly force against another individual, or otherwise associated with an investigation into the officer, can be retained only until matters have been concluded or adjudicated.
The Problem with Texas’ Body-Worn Camera Laws
Body-worn cameras can help realize the goals of improving law enforcement-community relationships, reducing unnecessary police violence, and minimizing racial profiling when police officers use them properly during encounters with the public. But the current definitions and concepts related to body-worn camera laws are simply too vague. This can result in difficulty holding police officers accountable when allegations of violations occur.
For instance, the current laws do not provide clear definitions and concepts about the specific recording requirements when using body-worn cameras. Likewise, they don’t give specific guidance to supervisors about authorizing the deactivation of audio when recording. In addition, the current laws allow for too much discretion on the officer’s part when activating or deactivating the cameras. This lack of guidance can lead to inconsistent applications and interpretations of the laws.
Talk to an Experienced Fort Worth, TX, Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you’ve been accused or charged with a crime or believe that the police have violated your constitutional rights during a police encounter, contact the law office of Kyle Whitaker for legal advice. Arrange an appointment with our Fort Worth, TX, criminal defense attorney by reaching us online or calling 817-332-7703.