607 – Audio Recordings
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) utilizes digital audio recordings (DARs) to maintain accurate records of all calls for service and radio transmissions processed through the Communications Division. All audio recording equipment and audio recordings will be maintained and stored in a secured environment approved by the Communications Division commander. All audio recordings and equipment shall be accessible only by authorized personnel.
Audio Records Security
All dispatch audio recordings shall be maintained for a minimum of forty-five (45) days prior to reuse.
Copies of audio recordings will not be provided to non-supervisory and non-sworn personnel (exclusive of investigators and Vehicular Crimes Division investigators assigned to an active case). Copies of audio recordings are not provided to private citizens without a court-ordered subpoena.
The release of any audio recordings to authorized personnel shall be documented in the Audio Custodian Audio Record Release Log.
In no case will a copy of an audio recording be released to any person for personal use.
Holds and Requesting Copies of Dispatch Audio Recordings
Requests for placing a hold on a dispatch audio recording, a copy of a dispatch audio recording, or both may be made at the same time. Requests for audio recordings shall be made by submission of an Audio Record Request form to the audio records custodian.
The purpose of requesting holds on dispatch audio recordings, and subsequent production of copies of the recordings, is to clarify the sequence of events occurring at or near the time of the incident.
Requests for placing a hold on a dispatch audio recording, or for a copy of a dispatch audio recording, will be made in writing, or by a court-ordered subpoena, and forwarded to the Communications Division audio records custodian.
A written request, court order, or subpoena shall include the date, the approximate time of the incident, the HCSO case number, the Harris County cause number if applicable, and the reason for the request.
Verbal requests shall be honored when exigent circumstances exist and will be at the discretion of the Communications Division supervisor. The Communications Division supervisor will coordinate with the audio records custodian to facilitate a verbal request. A written request shall be forwarded to the Communications Division audio records custodian within five (5) days of the verbal request.
Dispatch audio recordings under hold will be retained for a minimum of forty-five (45) days.
Dispatch audio recordings are automatically returned to working inventory when the case is disposed of via plea agreements, dismissal, or when the defendant is acquitted. Audio recordings on hold involving defendants who are entitled to appeal following a guilty verdict in a trial setting will remain on hold until the defendant has exhausted his or her appeal process.
An authorized person requesting a hold on a dispatch audio recording that does not have an active prosecution case pending will be notified in writing by the audio records custodian prior to the audio recording being returned to working inventory. If, after three notification attempts, the requesting party does not indicate the need for a continued hold, the audio recording will be returned to the working inventory.
A person authorized to request a hold on a dispatch audio recording may, at any time, request that a hold be extended. A request for extension shall be in writing to the audio records custodian.
Failure to comply with the aforementioned procedures will serve as appropriate reason to return the requested audio recording back to the working inventory.
This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:
April 21, 2009
October 9, 2012