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Austin Police Department Rolls Out New Draft Policy on Release of Law Enforcement Video

The Austin Police Department has developed a proposal to release more video of critical incidents involving the APD which was directed by the Austin City Council last month to develop the new rules.

To APD’s credit, the new draft guidelines were created quickly thanks to a collaborative effort between law enforcement, community groups, and the district attorney’s office. The rules are based on the Los Angeles Police Department’s rules on release of footage.

They would require APD to release video of specific incidents involving police within 90 days, unless the chief of police objects to the release.

Critical incidents are defined as instances in which:

  • An officer uses deadly force
  • An officer seriously injures someone
  • An officer is shot
  • An officer fires a gun
  • An individual dies in police custody

If the chief of police nixes the release of footage, APD must post a summary of reasons the video will not be released.

Video Subject to Online Release

All video created by APD during critical incidents, including body camera footage and dashboard camera footage, will be subject to online release.

APD officials say release of such video would create transparency and help educate the public. Even the city’s police union is supportive of the move.

 “I wish we could release more video,” Ken Casaday, president of the Austin police union, told the Austin American-Statesman.

“I think it’s important for people in the community to see what’s going on. I think the community will have a much better perspective about why police do what they do.”

The rules require formal adoption by APD before they can be implemented, a move that is expected soon. Austin City Council action will not be needed to move forward.

To TAB’s knowledge, Austin would be the first major police department in the state to adopt such a transparency policy. The welcome move comes after years of debate at the Texas Capitol over the release of law enforcement generated footage.

The initial body camera law by St. Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, became more restrictive on release as it moved through the Texas Legislature toward final passage. West has tried in recent sessions, unsuccessfully, to restrict release of dashboard camera footage.

TAB is hopeful that the Austin initiative might show lawmakers and other Texas police departments, that release of critical incident footage makes sense. It holds law enforcement, and in some instances, citizens, accountable for their actions.

APD’s move toward building the public’s trust through transparency should be applauded.

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