Body-Worn Cameras

Senate Bill 158 passed during the 84th legislative session requires that a law enforcement agency that operates a body-worn camera program must adopt a policy and training program for the use of body cameras. The body camera policy must include when and why an officer may choose to activate or not activate a body worn camera.  Departments operating a camera system have until September 1, 2016, to implement a body camera policy and training program under this law.

The legislature authorized $10 million for grants for law enforcement agencies to equip officers with body-worn cameras if the agency employs officers who: (a) are engaged in traffic or highway patrol or otherwise regularly stop or detain motor vehicles; or (b) respond to calls for assistance from the public. The grants will be administered through the Governor’s office. For more information on the grant program, how to apply, and how and when funds will be disbursed, please visit eGrants Online. A local law enforcement agency must match 25 percent of any grant money received. Additionally, a law enforcement agency that receives a grant from the Department of Public Safety to provide body cameras to its officers must also adopt a policy and training program for the use of body cameras.

The following resources may assist a law enforcement agency in adopting and implementing a body-worn camera policy. Please be advised that this information is posted for informational purposes only. City and law enforcement officials should consult with local legal counsel to ensure that any information complies with current law and the particular facts of each situation.  

Resources

Senate Bill 158 requires the attorney general to set a proposed fee to be charged to members of the public who seek to obtain a copy of a recording from a body-worn camera. The fee amount must be sufficient to cover the cost of reviewing and making the recording. As of September 1, 2015, when Senate Bill 158 went into effect, the Attorney General's Office had not yet adopted a rule related to fees for body-worn camera footage. The League will continue to monitor any related rulemaking and will provide more detailed information, as it becomes available. In the meantime, cities can call the Attorney General's Toll-Free Cost Hotline with questions on how much to charge for producing footage: 888/672-6787 (888/ORCOSTS).

 

Retention Schedule for Body-Worn Cameras

Senate Bill 158, passed during the 84th legislative session, governs various facets of police officer-worn cameras. The bill did not, though, provide a specific retention schedule for the video footage captured on these cameras. Thus, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission proposed rules adding officer-worn cameras to the local government public safety retention schedule.

Cities must retain video and audio recordings from an officer-worn camera that do not capture a violation, use of deadly force by an officer, or are otherwise related to an administrative or criminal investigation of an officer for 90 days.

If the video and audio recording from an officer-worn camera captures the use of deadly force by an officer, is related to an administrative or criminal investigation of an officer, or captures a violation by any person, then cities should follow retention periods for internal affairs investigation records or offense investigation records, as appropriate, but not less than 90 days.

Additional information and a copy of the proposed rules are available on the Texas State Library and Archives Commission website at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/recordspubs/localretention/updates.html  

Written comments on these proposed changes may be submitted to Sarah Jacobson, Manager, Records Management Assistance, Box 12927, Austin, Texas 78711; by fax to (512) 936-2306; or by email to sjacobson@tsl.texas.gov. The deadline for comments is September 23, 2016.