In 2015, the 84th Legislature approved $10 million for the purchase of body cameras through a matching grant program that is overseen by the Governor’s office. But since taking affect this past September; questions remain among state lawmakers as to when and how the tapes could be released to the public.
In some states, law enforcement groups have implemented policies whereby video from an officer’s body camera is automatically uploaded to the agency’s YouTube page with redacted footage. It’s an idea that doesn’t sit well with Pasadena Republican Rep. Allen Fletcher, who chairs the House Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Law Enforcement.
“I think it’s a waste of time and I don’t want to see the State of Texas getting involved in posting that kind of thing for any reason. I mean if the folks have a reason to specifically get it and they have enough information the way our bill is written, they know someone in the video, but that almost sounds to me that there is too much social networking, too much of this, lets get it out there so people can surf and search and see stuff for sensationalism, I don’t like it at all," Fletcher said.
According to the Texas law, which was Senate Bill 158, police must retain the video for a minimum of 90 days and must have backup copies. Any recording of a police shooting or one related to a criminal investigation of an officer may not be deleted, destroyed, or released to the public until that investigation has been completed.
The House committee will continue to study whether or not the law needs to be amended during the 2017 legislation session so that the public’s access to these body cam videos is more readily available.