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Police Policy Comments


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Department Camera Systems Policy

This policy establishes the guidelines for the use and management of camera systems used by the Hillsborough Police Department and the audio and video recordings they produce. The Hillsborough Police Department utilizes these camera systems to document the actions of officers and interactions between officers and citizens. These systems have proven to be an effective tool to preserve factual representations of officer actions, officer-citizen interactions and to build and enhance public trust. While the use of these systems may result in some video of evidentiary value being created, evidence collection is secondary to documentary value of such a system and these systems are not intended to be used as a purposeful investigative tool and/or to make recordings of detailed investigative actions except in limited situations.

A. BODY WORN CAMERAS (BWC)

  1. Training and Deployment
    1. Prior to being issued or allowed to use a BWC, personnel will be provided training on the use of the camera system. Personnel may only use the department provided BWC system unless specifically authorized by the Chief of Police.
    2. BWC systems will be available to all officers. When possible, all officers will have a BWC individually assigned for their use.  
    3. Patrol personnel are expected to wear their BWC at all times while on duty. Wear of a BWC by non-patrol personnel is discretionary on a situational basis. Non-Patrol personnel who are covering patrol functions or who reasonably anticipate taking an enforcement action are expected to be wearing a BWC.
  2. Procedures
    1. Personnel assigned or utilizing a BWC are responsible for ensuring the camera is functioning and recording properly prior to and throughout their duty shift. If an employee who is required to use a camera realizes that their camera is non-functional, they must immediately notify their supervisor and secure a replacement for the non-functioning equipment. 
    2. Patrol personnel assigned a BWC shall activate their camera as follows:
      1. when dispatched to any call for service, officers shall activate their BWC as they begin to respond to the call;
      2. when taking any self-initiated activity that could be reasonably anticipated to result in an enforcement contact with a community member, the officer shall activate the camera when they begin the self-initiated activity;
      3. officers shall activate or reactivate their cameras immediately upon any situation escalating beyond a normal consensual cooperative contact, becoming adversarial in nature or in any situation where a citizen displays hostility, negative views, or dissatisfaction with police services;
      4. officers shall activate or reactivate their BWC any time a person in their custody shows any resistance, makes adversarial statements, or displays any bizarre or unusual behaviors;
      5. during any consensual search of a person, building, vehicle or other property (the BWC shall be activated prior to asking for the consent to search); and/or,
      6. when serving any type of commitment papers and/or providing short distance transportation to citizens.
    3. All personnel, regardless of assignment, shall utilize a BWC during:
      1. service and execution of a search warrant at a physical location;
      2. any warrantless search of buildings, vehicles or other property unless some type of articulable exigency makes it impractical to wait for a camera to arrive on the scene; and/or,
      3. any situation where the officer sets out with a reasonable expectation that an arrest or enforcement situation may occur, such as attempting to serve warrants.
    4. Officers may utilize their BWC in any situation that they feel it is appropriate to do so in order to properly document the events, capture the events for evidentiary or training purposes, or to protect themselves or the department from liability.
    5. Officers may deactivate their BWC:
      1. when officers have made the initial assessment of a call for service and reasonably believe there is no enforcement action to be taken, have encountered no resistance or adversarial behaviors, and have moved into an investigative phase and are gathering information for reporting purposes or are performing other non-enforcement related activities, such as directing traffic;
      2. when any situation in which an enforcement action was or could have been taken has ended and the citizen is no longer in the officer’s presence;
      3. upon completion of any traffic stop or citizen contact once the citizen is no longer in the officer’s presence; and/or,
      4. during periods of excessive waiting or processing of a cooperative subject in custody, such as waiting at the magistrate’s office.
    6. Officers may deactivate a BWC when inside private property and specifically requested to do so by the property owner or person in control of the property if the situation is non-adversarial in nature and there are multiple officers present.
    7. Officers may deactivate the BWC if the situation is non-adversarial in nature and they can specifically articulate that doing so was necessary to keep a situation from escalating or was necessary to gain citizen cooperation. Officers who deactivate a BWC in this situation must notify their supervisor about this deactivation immediately upon completion of the event.
  3. Exceptions/Restrictions
    1. Officers shall not utilize BWC systems in places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy without some type of articulable exigency or a search warrant.
    2. Officers shall not utilize BWC systems in restrooms, locker rooms, or other places where they may film others in compromising situations unless they can articulate a specific job-related reason for doing so.
    3. Officers shall not use a BWC to record activities involving known confidential informants or undercover officers unless specifically authorized to do so by a supervisor.
    4. BWC systems shall not be used to intentionally record conversations between employees without all parties involved being clearly made aware that a recording is being made unless doing so is part of a formal investigation with prior approval from command level personnel.
    5. Unless there is a specific articulable necessity for doing so, officers should refrain from utilizing their BWC inside a medical facility or other location where doing so may conflict with a person’s specific HIPPA medical privacy.
    6. Officers will not utilize a BWC system to continuously record free-speech events unless they are actively engaging with people in the event or have been given a specific supervisory directive to do so.
  4. Managing Recordings
    1. Officers who utilize a BWC are responsible for properly tagging or labeling all videos recorded on their device.
    2. Officers are responsible for ensuring that the BWC is placed for charging and uploading of video at the end of their duty day. If an officer encounters a problem with uploading video, they must notify a supervisor.
    3. No personnel may make or retain a copy of any BWC video on any personal device, nor may they release any BWC recording without command approval. Access to download or otherwise share BWC footage is restricted to command personnel.
    4. No department member may edit, modify, or delete any BWC footage outside of normal retention guidelines or without the specific authorization of the Chief of Police.

B. IN-CAR CAMERA SYSTEMS

  1. Training and Deployment
    1. All officers should receive training on the use of the in-car system as part of their field training. Only the department issued camera system may be used. 
    2. In-car video systems are installed in all marked patrol units. In-car systems are set to activate automatically when the emergency lights are activated or if the vehicle’s speed exceeds 75 MPH.
  2. Procedures
    1. Officers operating a vehicle with an in-car camera are responsible for inspecting the system prior to beginning their tour of duty to ensure it is properly positioned, functioning and that there is adequate storage space. Any problems with in-car camera equipment must be reported to their immediate supervisor, or their commander in their supervisor’s absence.
    2. Use of the in-car system’s microphone is optional if an officer is utilizing a BWC.
    3. In-car cameras should activate automatically as described above. Officers may manually activate the camera if needed. In-car cameras should be activated during any traffic stop; pursuit or emergency response; or any call response or situation where the officer believes the use of the camera advantageous.
    4. Officers may deactivate their in-car camera:
      1. Upon completion of any traffic stop or citizen contact once the citizen is no longer in the officer’s presence,
      2. At the end of a pursuit or response, once the officer has arrived and the scene is safe,
      3. When the officer has determined that the camera activated due to an automatic trigger and the use of the camera is not required,
      4. Once any call or situation that caused the officer to activate the camera has resolved.
  3. Exceptions/Restrictions
    1. Officers shall not use in-car camera systems to record activities involving known confidential informants or undercover officers unless specifically authorized to do so by a supervisor.
    2. In-car camera systems shall not be used to intentionally record conversations between employees without all parties involved being clearly made aware that a recording is being made unless doing so is part of a formal investigation with prior approval from command level personnel.
    3. Officers will not utilize an in-car camera system to continuously record free-speech events unless they are actively engaging with people in the event or have been given a specific supervisory directive to do so.
  4. Managing Recordings
    1. Officers are responsible for logging into the in-car system at the beginning of their shift and ensuring the date and their information is correct.  
    2. Officers are responsible for stopping at Headquarters for sufficient time to download videos. If they are not able to do so, or if the files are too large, they should notify their supervisor so arrangements can be made to have the data manually downloaded. 
    3. No department member may edit, modify, or delete any in-car camera footage outside of normal retention guidelines or without the specific authorization of the Chief of Police.

C. RETENTION/RELEASE

  1. All recordings made by departmental camera systems are the property of the Hillsborough Police Department, and are not to be viewed, duplicated, disseminated, destroyed and /or used without legitimate purposes and in accordance with applicable laws and departmental policy.
  2. All recordings will be retained in accordance with the NC Schedule for Retention, based on the labeling and categorization of each video. Video may be retained longer due to manual management or department needs.
  3. Overall management of departmental video systems, to include BWC, In-car and facility systems will be the responsibility of the administrative lieutenant or a designee of the Chief of Police.
  4. The release (providing copies) or disclosure (allow viewing) of BWC or In-Car recordings will be done in accordance with North Carolina General Statute 132-1.4A, which states that recordings are neither a public record nor are they a personnel record. Any release and disclosure of BWC or In-Car recordings must be approved by the Chief of Police.
    1. Requests for disclosure of video must be made in writing to the Chief of Police, and must include the date and approximate time of the activity, or otherwise identify the activity with reasonable particularity sufficient to identify the recording being requested, and/or,
    2. Release of videos generally will be done pursuant to a superior court order.
  5. Any portion of an audio/video that records events surrounding a violation of the laws prosecutable in the criminal courts of this state or the United States, may be considered a record of a criminal investigation, as described in NCGS 132-1.4.
  6. Any portion of an audio/video that is used to subject an employee to departmental disciplinary action may become part of that employee’s personnel file as defined in NCGS 160A-168, and is open to inspection only as provided by statute.

D. VIDEO REQUESTS FOR OFFICIAL USE

  1. It is the responsibility of the investigating officer in any case to request that video be retained. This includes BWC, In-Car and video from department facility systems such as the DWI room.
  2. Requests for video will be made using the Video Request Form (form 406b). This form is to be completed and submitted to the administrative Lieutenant within two (2) days of the event or the officer becoming aware of the need to retain video.

E. SUPERVISOR RESPONSIBILITIES/AUDITING

  1. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that those under their supervision are properly equipped and utilizing any assigned camera system as directed by this policy.
  2. Supervisors are responsible for immediately addressing any deficiency or non-operational camera system that they become aware of, including securing replacement equipment when possible and notifying command personnel and specifically describing the problem.
  3. Supervisors and Command personnel are expected to randomly audit video footage as directed to ensure policy compliance and to look for training issues. The focus of the random auditing is to be corrective rather than punitive in nature, however significant policy violations will be addressed. Random auditing will be documented using the Video Review Form (form 406a).
  4. At least annually, a BWC Audit will be conducted in which calls for service and BWC footage are compared over a multi-day period for each patrol squad to ensure policy compliance.
 

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