Report Recommendation 1.3
Pillar 1: Trust and Legitimacy
1.3 Report Recommendation: Law enforcement agencies should establish a culture of transparency and accountability in order to build public trust and legitimacy. This will help ensure decision-making is understood and in accord with stated policy.
- The BRPD is committed to the belief that Body-Worn Camera (BWC) video recordings are an important and valuable tool for law enforcement. BRPD’s policy and use of body-worn cameras are intended to promote officer safety, strengthen police accountability, enhance operational transparency, provide for more effective prosecution, and improve protection against false allegations of excessive use of force, misconduct, or racial profiling while protecting civil liberties and privacy interests.
For example, a BWC video is used during Internal Affairs investigations, whereby BRPD conducts a six-month audit of the BWC video of the officer being investigated.
BRPD’s Department-wide BWC program https://www.brpdbodycam.com/, which began in August 2017, was developed through input from officers across the Department, as well as collaboration with various community stakeholders, including elected officials, city/parish law enforcement, local advocacy groups, academic researchers, and members of the faith-based community. BRPD’s BWC policy is grounded in best practice recommendations put forth by national experts, including, but not limited to, publications from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
BWC policies from other law enforcement agencies were examined prior to the development of the BRPD’s current BWC policy, and the agency’s current standards even exceed the standards outlined by the Department of Justice. The agency regularly evaluates and revises its BWC policy based on new research and best practice recommendations.
BRPD’s BWC policy https://www.brpdbodycam.com/ requires every sworn officer employed by the Department to be assigned and trained in the proper operation of the BWC and related equipment. BWCs are used to document events, capture Digital Media Evidence (DME), and evaluate officer performance. BRPD Officers wear the BWC on the outside of their uniform, facing forward in such a manner to maximize the video capture angle and to prevent, to the extent possible, blockage of the camera by the uniform or equipment. When safe to activate, BWCs are utilized to record the following types of events:
- Traffic stops
- Person and vehicle searches
- Physical or verbal confrontations
- Use of force incidents
- All Calls for Service, including backup Officers
- Any contact that becomes adversarial when the BWC had not previously been activated
- Prisoner transport
- Any other citizen contact or official duty circumstance is at the officer’s discretion.
While an officer’s holster, taser, lights, and gun are manually activated, BRPD is implementing new technology, which automatically activates BWCs.
- The BRPD recognizes that video from Body Worn Cameras and In-Car Cameras provides an incomplete but essential view of critical incidents involving officers and the citizens they serve. However, the videos also provide the public with a better understanding of police work. Releasing body camera and in-car camera video evidence in a timely manner enhances public trust in police officers, while postponements in releasing critical incident video evidence can negatively impact community-police relations.
With a focus on public accountability and transparency, in April 2019, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul announced the BRPD would implement a Critical Incident Video Release Policy https://www.brla.gov/DocumentCenter/View/6050/08-21-18-Critical-Incident-Video-Release-PDF Under the new policy, the Chief of Police is required to make a decision within 12 days of the incident in question.
If the Chief decides the release of the video will not interfere with the integrity of the investigation and/or the prosecution, the BRPD releases critical incident video evidence as soon as possible. The grace period between the incident date and video release is meant to ensure that witnesses will not be endangered and that prosecutions will not be undermined.
- The 2019 policy breaks from the agency's previous practice of withholding all such videos until the completion of the investigation and any possible prosecution — a process that often took more than a year to conclude.
- The policy applies to critical incidents, which are defined as incidents where an officer uses force that results in hospitalization or death, or if the officer intentionally shoots a gun at a person or strikes a person in the head with an impact of a weapon, and when a police vehicle pursuit results in the hospitalization or death of a person, or a detained subject dies in custody.
- BRPD Police Chief shares updates on operations and initiatives to members of the Chief’s Advisory Council, whose members represent a cross-section of grassroots groups and local organizations. During these quarterly meetings, Council Members provide crucial feedback to help guide BRPD policies and operations.
- Holding itself accountable to citizens, BRPD publishes Annual Reports, detailing strategies, tactics, outcomes, and its partnerships with the community.
- BRPD has posted the agency policies online, on its website, and BRPD added several features to its website, including data/statistics and annual summaries of Internal Affairs Investigations.
- BRPD has dramatically increased its efforts to communicate to the public via social media.