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Body Worn Cameras – Tips for Prosecutors

January 14, 2016 — Volume 5

Police departments around the country are purchasing body worn cameras (BWC) at an accelerating pace. Prosecutors should get involved in this process as early as possible. Here is a brief overview of some of the issues prosecutors may consider. Also attached is a selection of model policies, articles and reports that provide more detailed information.

  • Who is Using BWC? Reach out to your police departments.
    • Are they buying body worn cameras?
    • Are different departments using different technologies?
    • Are they developing different policies?
  • BWC Policy: Get involved in the development of the BWC policy.
    • When should the officer record?
    • Are the recordings tagged with incident or arrest information and if so, how?
    • How and when does the prosecutor get access to the recordings?
    • Where and how are the recordings stored and for how long?
  • Discovery and Evidence: Develop procedures within a prosecutor’s office.
    • Who will gather and review the recordings?
    • How does a recording get associated with an arrest?
    • When and how are the recordings turned over to the defense?
    • When and how can a recording be redacted?
  • Funding: What additional costs will BWC impose on the prosecutor’s office? Possible costs include:
    • Personnel for viewing and redacting
    • Equipment for viewing, storing and redacting
    • Licensing fees for viewing and storing
  • Stakeholder Meetings: Consider convening stakeholder meetings about BWC.
    • Are they buying body worn cameras?
    • Are different departments using different technologies?
    • Prosecutors can lead meetings with law enforcement, victim groups, courts, defense, community groups and/or elected officials to discuss BWC
  • Freedom of Information Laws and Release of Recordings:
    • Assess how to respond to a freedom of information request for a recording.
    • When should recordings be released to the public?
Additional Materials

BWC Summit Flier:
 CDAA National Body Cam Technology & Policy Summit and Expo
California District Attorneys Association (February 22-24, 2016, Anaheim California). Click here.

Articles by Prosecutors:

Model Body Worn Camera Policy for Police: An Aid for Prosecutors
California District Attorneys Association and Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence (7/14/2015). Click here.

Body-Worn Cameras: A Report for Law Enforcement
The Colorado Best Practices Committee for Prosecutors (February 2015). Click here.

Use of Body-Worn Cameras by Law Enforcement: Considerations, Issues and Concerns
Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys Best Practices Committee (6/29/2015). Click here.

These Are the Police Body Camera Questions State and Local Stakeholders Must Address Quickly
NDAA, Route Fifty (9/20/2015). Click here.

What Body Camera Data Should Police Collect and When?
NDAA, Route Fifty (10/15/2015). Click here.

With Body-Worn Cameras, Here Comes the Hard Part
NDAA, Route Fifty (11/23/2015). Click here.

Technical Resources:

Bureau of Justice Assistance BWC Tool Kit: Click here.

For the Record: Understanding the Technology Behind Body Worn Cameras
Digital Communities (September 2015). Click here.

Articles by Other Groups:

A Model Act for Regulating the Use of Wearable Body Cameras by Law Enforcement
ACLU (May 2015). Click here.

Police Body Cam Footage: Just Another Public Record
Abrams Institute (December 2015). Click here.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s Working Group on the Use and Implementation of Body-Worn Cameras (February 18, 2015)
City of Baltimore (2/18/2015). Click here.