Body Camera Policy
41.3.10 Body Worn Cameras
PURPOSE: This policy is intended to provide officers with instructions on when and how to use body worn cameras (BWC) so that officers may reliably record their contacts with the public in accordance with the law. It is the policy of this department that officers shall activate their BWC when such use is appropriate to the proper performance of their official duties. This policy does not govern the use of surreptitious recording devices used in undercover operations.
A. The BWC equipment and all data captured, recorded or produced by the equipment is the sole property of the Watertown Police Department. Accessing, copying, or releasing files for non-law enforcement purposes is strictly prohibited.
B. Police personnel who are assigned BWCs must complete agency training to ensure proper use and operation, and are required to follow that training. The requirement to use BWCs applies only to those officers who are issued BWCs.
C. BWC equipment is the responsibility of individual officers and shall be used with reasonable care to ensure proper functioning. Officers shall inspect and test their BWC prior to each shift in order to verify proper functioning. Equipment malfunction shall be brought to the attention of a supervisor as soon as possible.
D. Officers shall not edit, alter, or erase BWC recordings.
- Requests for deletion of recordings (that is, in the event of a sensitive personal recording or accidental activation) should be submitted in writing and approved by the Police Chief or his or her designee, in accordance with record retention laws.
- If recordings are of a sensitive matter for a police officer, or are of a matter for internal investigation, the Investigating Supervisor will advise the Video Record Administrator of the incident, and the Administrator will limit access to that video to those who are authorized for that purpose.
E. Officers shall activate their BWC to record all calls for service, and all face-to-face contacts with citizens in the performance of official duties. Officers may also activate their BWC at any other time where the use of the BWC is appropriate, especially when taking authoritative action. There will be certain activities that will understandably not require the use of BWC, such as teaching DARE class, foot patrol at a parade or Riverfest, getting coffee at a gas station, etc., and officers may consult with their supervisor on a case-by-case basis concerning such circumstances, for clarification.
- BWC use is not necessary if the officer is already recording the contact in a recorded interview room.
- Within the discretion of the officer, or at the request of a victim, officers may choose to not record crime-victim interviews.
- Once a scene or situation has stabilized, and no further citizen contact or enforcement of laws or evidentiary value is expected, officers may turn off their BWCs.
- BWCs shall not be used to record non-work-related activity, and shall not be activated in places where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, such as locker rooms, dressing rooms, or restrooms, unless the officer is conducting work-related activity there.
F. Officers shall note in their reports when any BWC recording is made, however, BWC recordings are not a replacement for written reports.
G. In every situation where a case number is generated, all of the BWC recordings, generated by any officer, related to the matter in any way, shall be preserved and documented through established chain of evidence procedure. The final preservation of the BWC evidence is accomplished through the current accepted standards of safekeeping for digital video evidence.
H. Officers may review BWC recordings to assist with accurate and complete report writing, preparing for court appearances, or any other official purpose.
I. BWC recordings shall be saved for a minimum of 120 days. BWC recordings shall be maintained in accordance with accepted standards for criminal matters, internal investigations, open records, and other requirements.
J. All non-department requests for BWC data shall be processed in accordance with Chapter 82.4.1, Open Records, and 82.1.1, Records Security and Release Criteria.