The Irving Police Department (IPD) can now see more of crime scenes and its investigations thanks to an agreement with Taser International for the use of body-worn cameras and data storage. As of June 1, Irving officers have been equipped with body-worn cameras, and an additional 42 officers are scheduled to receive the equipment in the near future. Currently, officers in the Patrol and Traffic divisions, along with the Irving City Marshal’s office, are equipped with the cameras. The additional officers scheduled to receive cameras include School Resource Officers, the Problem Solving Unit, Tactical Section and the Gang Unit.
The cameras are used by uniformed personnel throughout the course of their duties. Video documentation of their encounters can enhance the investigative process and strengthen an officer’s accountability and credibility when interacting with residents. The cameras, which capture audio and video content, are used to document police encounters with residents during enforcement and investigative activities, emergency response calls, pursuits, uses of force, forced entries, searches, and any other incident when its use would be appropriate or valuable.
Unlike vehicle dashboard cameras, which activate once the police lights are turned on, officers manually operate the body-worn cameras. According to IPD, the body-worn cameras are an extension of the dashboard cameras, providing a more in-depth observation of an incident unfolding. This recorded information will allow a judge or jury to see an encounter as it unfolded rather than relying on an officer to describe a situation that was not captured on a dashboard camera. Viewers can see it, hear it and be immersed in the situation. Officers have the ability to review the videos after an incident. This process not only allows officers the opportunity to recount information that might have been overlooked, but also to review and critique their own actions.
Officers will activate body-worn cameras when interacting with residents unless the recording is discretionary or prohibited by policy. Discretionary recording includes non-investigative encounters, but if reasonable suspicion or probable cause arises from an encounter or if the situation becomes confrontational, officers must record until the encounter subsides.
Prohibited use of recording includes recording other employees without written permission, recording for reasons other than legitimate law enforcement purposes, and recording in places where a heightened expectation of privacy exists including locker rooms, dressing rooms or restrooms, unless it is reasonably necessary for an investigation. Recording also is prohibited during strip searches and encounters with undercover officers or confidential informants.
Other police departments that have implemented a body camera program have noted a reduction in complaints against officers and a decrease in use-of-force incidents. The camera continues to capture footage when not in active use. Once an officer activates the camera, the device will mark the beginning of the recording at 30 seconds prior to activation. After the camera is used, the officer presses a button to deactivate it. A reminder notification will alert the officer every two minutes to shut off the camera if the button has not been pressed.
Officers who wear the device must undergo a two-hour, in-house training program that covers IPD’s policies of body-worn camera use, how to download footage, how to assemble a camera and the use of an app that connects to the camera’s footage. The City of Irving Police Department entered into a five-year contract with Taser International in December 2015 to purchase the Axon Body 2 model cameras and data storage capability from Evidence.com, a subsidiary of Taser.