We evaluated the Department’s draft body camera policy and bureau body camera practices and determined that they were not consistent with industry standards. We identified two leading authorities on law enforcement use of body cameras—the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Police Executive Research Forum—and concluded that by adopting their recommendations, the Department and bureaus will strengthen their body camera policies and practices.
Specifically, the Department’s draft policy would benefit from including standards for controls over body camera recordings, prohibition of manipulating and sharing recordings, requirements to note recordings in incident reports, requirements to document when a recording is not made or not completed, requirements to categorize videos, direction on sharing recordings, requirements for supervisors to review recordings, and requirements to inspect body cameras before shifts.
The Department has not yet issued and implemented a final policy on the use of body cameras by law enforcement. To date, bureau use of body cameras has been voluntary and decisions to purchase equipment are generally made at the field or regional level. Meanwhile, the bureaus have or are in process of issuing their own policies. Without a Departmentwide policy, however, these bureau policies vary in content and implementation. We found that bureau practices deviate from industry standard by not: controlling cameras and recordings, tracking camera inventory, identifying recordings in incident reports, purging recordings after the retention period expires, or enforcing supervisory review of recordings.
Until the Department issues a final body camera policy that includes critical industry standards, implementation of a successful body camera program is at risk, particularly in areas such as data quality, systems security, and privacy. The inconsistent use of body cameras and failure to adhere to industry standards also increases the risk that investigative or judicial proceedings will be challenged for failure to properly maintain evidence chain of custody, and could lead to an erosion of public trust in bureau law enforcement programs.
We made 13 recommendations to address the deficiencies in the Department’s draft policy and bureau practices that, if implemented, will improve consistency with industry standards and reduce the risks described above. On November 28, 2017, the Department provided a response to our draft report. In its response, the Department concurred with Recommendations 1 – 7, did not concur with Recommendation 8, and did not address Recommendations 9 – 13.