Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A videotape never exaggerates or embellishes the truth

Police will inspect for proper patrol car camera use

The Austin American Statesman reported that Austin police supervisors will begin conducting periodic inspections of videotapes from patrol cars to make sure officers are properly recording traffic and pedestrian stops, Police Chief Stan Knee announced to his staff Tuesday.
Knee's two-page e-mail memo to the city's 1,300 officers comes less than a month after an officer fatally shot a teenager in an incident that was not captured on tape, despite department policy.
Knee said in the memo that he and other department leaders are trying to develop a system for inspections. He said that failure to follow the rules to record traffic and pedestrian stops could lead to "significant disciplinary action."
However, the memo is not specific about what punishment officers would face.
"The community's expectations are that officers will consistently utilize the cameras to record stops," Knee wrote. "This process builds trust between the department and the community and provides an unbiased account.
"Recent events remind us of the importance in properly using in-car video and audio equipment."
According to Knee's memo, officers must immediately begin making a test recording at the beginning of each shift by saying their name, date and time. Officers must review the recording to make sure in-car cameras and the microphones clipped to their uniform are working.
Knee, who could not be reached for comment, said in the memo that videotapes have "numerous benefits" for officers.
They can be used to bolster testimony in court proceedings, as a reference source for completing reports and to protect officers from false allegations of misconduct, according to the memo.
He also wrote that they can be used as a training tool to evaluate officers' performances.
The department began installing cameras in its patrol cars in 1999 as part of a national movement in law enforcement to tape traffic stops.
By July 2003, officials had installed 156 cameras in patrol cars, about half of its fleet, when they asked the City Council to spend $342,000 on cameras for remaining cars.
The department has punished two officers with written reprimands since July 2003, when it updated its policy for recording stops, for failing to use videocameras.
There is no better piece of evidence for a DWI than the in-car video. I cannot tell you the number of times we have proven that the police officer exaggerated the truth by showing the video.

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