The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released a national report Tuesday, which evaluates the body-worn camera policies currently in place in the Rochester Police Department, and other major police departments across the country.
“Our principles emphasize that ‘without carefully crafted policy safeguards in place, there is a real risk that these new devices could become instruments of injustice, rather than tools for accountability,” the group stated. “Our goal is to highlight promising approaches that some departments are taking, and to identify opportunities where departments could improve their policies.”
The conference based its scorecard on eight criteria, which include whether the departments make their policies publicly and readily available; limit officer discretion on when to record; address personal privacy concerns; and protect footage against tampering and misuse.
Here’s how the RPD fared in the report:
- Makes the Department Policy Publicly and Readily Available (fully satisfies the report’s criteria);
- Limits Officer Discretion on When to Record (partially satisfies the report’s criteria);
- Addresses Personal Privacy Concerns (partially satisfies the report’s criteria);
- Prohibits Officer Pre-Report Viewing (does not address the issue, or policy runs directly against conference principles);
- Limits Retention of Footage (does not address the issue, or policy runs directly against conference principles);
- Protects Footage Against Tampering and Misuse (partially satisfies the report’s criteria);
- Makes Footage Available to Individuals Filing Complaints (partially satisfies the report’s criteria);
- Limits Biometric Searching of Footage (does not address the issue, or policy runs directly against conference principles);
- the department also received a $600,000 DOJ grant for BWCs in 2015 (the report identifies departments that have received more than $500,000 in DOJ grant funding to support their camera programs).
When it comes to limiting officer discretion on when to record, according to the report, departments receive the partial satisfaction designation whenever “policy clearly describes when officers must record, but does not require officers to provide concrete justifications for failing to record required events.”
In addition, relative to prohibiting officer pre-report viewing, the RPD score indicates the department policy may allow — or even encourage — “officers to view relevant footage before filing an initial written report or statement,” the report said.
The RPD announced in June its officers would begin wearing body cameras this month.
Officers in the Clinton Neighborhood Section will be the first officers to begin wearing the cameras, and additional sections will have the cameras in use by February 2017.
Rochester City Council approved the vendor contract for the cameras in January, and the city’s budget has allocated $2 million to the RPD for purchasing the body cameras, in addition to the $600,000 the U.S. Department of Justice has also contributed to the program.
Visit https://www.bwcscorecard.org/ to view the conference’s full report.