618 – Body-Worn Cameras (BWCs)

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I.             Purpose

This policy aims to establish guidelines for the use of Body Worn Camera/In Car video systems throughout the HCSO and for storing, managing, retrieving, and releasing of video and audio captured on the recording systems.

This policy does not apply to covert recording devices, such as those placed on undercover employees or criminal informants. Such devices must continue to be handled following existing procedures.

The purpose of this policy is also to create a balance of three components; the privacy rights of members of the public, accountability and transparency, and the working conditions of HCSO employees.

II.           Definitions

Administrative – Related to management functions and not inherently related to enforcement actions or use of law enforcement authority.

Body-Worn Camera (BWC) – An on-the-body recording system assigned to an employee at any time. The system may capture images and audio and may receive pictures and messages. BWCs do not include surreptitious recording devices used in undercover operations. The current system in use by the HCSO is the Eos by Utility. This is the only BWC currently authorized for use by HCSO personnel and may include the following peripheral devices – in-uniform holster with lens, Bluetooth controller, and holster activation sensor.

BWC Administrator – The individual responsible for the overall maintenance and functioning of the system.

CFS – A call for service as entered into the Harris County Computer Aided Dispatch system.

Critical Incident – An event which is potentially significantly impactful to an individual either due to being outside the norm of their typical experiences or due to being experienced as sudden, overwhelming, threatening or protracted. It can include any incident where an employee uses force directed at another person where serious physical injury or death may have occurred, or any incident where a suspect dies in the custody of an employee while conducting an arrest or shortly thereafter.  It can also include any other event that may result in civil or criminal liability to employees of the HCSO.  Specifically excluded from this definition are the shooting of an animal or training-related firearms discharges.  A video of a critical incident, in whole or in part, may be released in accordance with the law when doing so serves a law enforcement purpose or at the direction of the Sheriff.

Department vehicle – Any vehicle owned, leased, or borrowed by the Department and used by an employee for Department purposes.

Detention Command Non-Secure Area – Any area within the 1200 Baker, 1307 Baker, 701 North San Jacinto, or Joint Processing facilities that is located outside the secure perimeter of the facilities.

Detention Command Secure Area –  Any area within the 1200 Baker, 1307 Baker, 701 North San Jacinto, or Joint Processing facilities that is located within the secure perimeter of the facilities.

Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) – The software application suite used for accessing, reviewing, classification, redaction, and other access to stored video recorded by the BWC/ICC systems or other evidence inclusions within the DEMS. The current application in use by the HCSO is the Polaris system produced by Utility Inc.

Employee – All commissioned and professional staff members, reserve deputies, chaplains, and any other individual operationally attached to the Department, including contractors and task force members. This definition is solely used for the convenience of reading this policy and is not meant to establish an employment relationship with any individual(s) where such a relationship does not otherwise exist.

Enforcement action – an enforcement action is an action taken by an HCSO employee acting in their official capacity as a peace officer or jailer. This may include but is not limited to an arrest, use of force incident, issuance of a citation, or any other exercise of authority granted by the law or policy.

External uniform holster – only approved for personnel who have been issued a tactical-type vest by the HCSO.

In-Car Camera (ICC) – One or more cameras affixed to a Department vehicle that captures video and audio outside and the vehicle’s interior. The current system in use by the HCSO is the Rocket IOT produced by Utility Inc. The system may also include an interior control tablet mounted in the vehicle.

Law enforcement purpose – A law enforcement purpose is any activity undertaken by a TCOLE certified HCSO employee in the furtherance of a law enforcement duty defined by law or policy. It may include but is not limited to enforcement actions, criminal investigations, responding to calls for service, and any other law enforcement activity in which a video recording would assist the investigation or prosecution of a crime, or when a recording of an encounter would assist in documenting the incident for further law enforcement purposes, or documenting suspicious or possible illegal activity when observed by HCSO employees. Excluded from this definition are routine courtroom encounters, such as a bailiff escorting or accompanying a jury or providing courtroom security, which otherwise do not meet any other criteria of this definition.

Metadata – Case numbers, incident numbers, and other Department descriptors used to identify and describe recorded data.

Private Space – A location where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, including a person’s home.

Public Safety Statement – A brief statement on the scene from the involved deputy covering the information necessary to focus the initial Sheriff’s office response and direct the preliminary investigation.

Recording Device or Device – A generic term for an ICC and BWC. This definition also includes portable audio recording devices that may be issued for use when an ICC is not practical, depending on the work element.

Redact – To select or obscure sensitive or closed information, including images and sounds, for publication or release.

Retention Period – The time a recording is retained before being automatically eliminated by the system.

III.          Policy

It is the policy of this agency to use BWCs to effectively document law enforcement–public contacts, while taking into account legitimate individual privacy interests. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office seeks to use BWCs to merit and maintain the public’s trust by providing an objective record of events.

IV.          Procedure

A.  Employees will only use recording devices issued by the Department.

B.  Recording devices issued to an employee either permanently or for a delineated period are the responsibility of that employee and will be utilized solely according to Departmental policy.

C.  Employees are prohibited from using Department issued recording devices for personal use and are prohibited from making personal copies of recordings.

D.  Employees will only wear the BWC mounted in one of the Department approved locations.

E.            If an employee is assigned a BWC, and is working in a role where BWC use is either not possible, appropriate, or conducive to work (e.g., undercover, the training academy, or an office position with no public contact), and a supervisor has approved any exceptions to this section, then the employee will be excused from device use.  Without these specific exceptions, it is expected that an employee issued a BWC will use it when otherwise required by this policy.

F.            It is the responsibility of the employee to ensure any recording devices are activated, operating, and positioned to record events as specified in this policy.

G.           Employees will not intentionally or knowingly cover the lens of the BWC in whole or part with the exception in (H).

H.           Employees will adjust their BWC to prevent its view from being obscured whenever equipping extra equipment when possible and when it would not place an undue burden or safety hazard on the employee.

I.             Employees are not authorized to, nor will they attempt to, edit, alter, erase, duplicate, copy, share, disseminate, or otherwise distribute any recordings without prior written authorization and approval of the Sheriff or his designee unless specifically authorized in another section of this policy.

J.            Employees unsure whether the release of information is permitted must contact a supervisor for clarification before the release. Should the supervisor require additional information, the Camera System Administrator will be contacted.

K.            Employees must not, nor attempt to, physically alter any recording devices.

L.            Employees must not, nor attempt to, render any device incapable of performing its normal functions as designed by the vendor, including GPS acquisition or camera activation. This does not include placing the BWC in “Off Duty Mode” when the employee is not expected to respond to a CFS or in a Private Space.

M.          Employees working secondary employment (also known as an Extra Job) while wearing a Department uniform, and who are issued a BWC, must wear the BWC and will initiate recordings should a circumstance arise that meets the criteria of required recordings as if they were on normal duty.

N.           Employees who make a recording while working secondary employment will ensure that their recording(s) are uploaded by the conclusion of their first regular duty day after completing the recording.

O.           A supervisor may mandate that a recording made while working secondary employment be uploaded immediately.

P.            Certain circumstances during an emergency may delay and prevent recording initiation. All facts surrounding the delay or prevention will be considered when determining whether a policy has been violated and if the Sheriff or his designee will impose any corrective action and/or discipline.

Q.           When the Department has been notified of a pending lawsuit, the Commander of the Internal Affairs Division, or designee, will be responsible for verifying the proper classification and restrictions of any recording(s) related to the lawsuit.

R.           Employees are not required to wear devices during ceremonial functions.

V.           Training

A.           All employees using a recording device must complete mandatory training provided by the Department to ensure proper use and operations. Additional training may be required at periodic intervals to ensure the equipment’s continued effective use and process to incorporate changes, updates, upgrades, or other revisions to policy, equipment, and software.

B.           Supplemental training will be provided to non-first responders (for example, investigators, supervisors, and various support personnel) who have not been issued BWC/ICC systems, to facilitate the effective and efficient use of the Digital Evidence Management System by the Training Academy or BWC Administrators as deemed periodically necessary.

VI.          Start of Shift Responsibilities

A.           Before and throughout each shift, employees will ensure that all components of any recording device are working satisfactorily.

B.           Damaged or nonfunctional recording devices will be reported to an immediate supervisor as soon as possible.

C.           It is the responsibility of the employee to ensure the BWC is fully charged before the start of their shift or extra employment each day.

D.           It is the responsibility of the employee to ensure the associated peripheral devices, Bluetooth controller and holster sensor (if issued), have adequate battery to complete their shift.

E.            The employee will ensure the BWC is correctly seated in the designated carrier before the start of their shift.

F.            If the employee is operating a department vehicle during the shift, the employee is required to ensure they are correctly logged into the ICC and the BWC is associated with the department vehicle to provide appropriate attribution of videos recorded.

G. Due to equipment malfunctions or due to their BWC being unavailable, an employee may be issued a BWC temporarily for use during their shift.  The employee will use that BWC in accordance with this policy as they would their issued BWC.  All recordings will be uploaded and properly classified by the employee prior to turning the camera back in, and the employee will log off of the BWC.  These cameras will be issued, audited, controlled, and otherwise routinely maintained for employee use as directed by each Division commander.

VII.         End of Shift Responsibilities

A.           All files must be uploaded before the end of the shift on which they were recorded. Each file deemed relevant to an investigation will be classified as such and appropriate notes added as needed.

B.           If a circumstance arises where the employee cannot upload the recordings before the end of the employee’s shift, the employee must notify a supervisor of the situation prior to ending their shift.

1.            The employee will obtain written permission from a supervisor in the form of a department e-mail or a memorandum from the supervisor to the employee to delay the upload until the next available opportunity.

2.            The employee who has a delayed upload must note that fact on the employee’s daily activity log (or similar).

C.           If the employee operates a department vehicle, they must log off the ICC to prepare the system for the following user.

VIII.        Required Recordings

A.           Body worn cameras should be activated for a law enforcement purpose only. In general, a law enforcement purpose must fall into at least one of the following categories to mandate recording –

1.            Enforcement action(s),

2.            Use of law-enforcement authority,

3.            Liability protection,

4.            Active participation in an investigation, or

5.  Any other event, particularly one that occurs in Detention Command in a secure facility, that taken by itself could result in significant harm to and/or legal liability for the department, employee, or another person, that is not or cannot be adequately documented by other means.  Routine operations in a secure facility not meeting these criteria will not require BWC activation.

B.           Employees issued a BWC must begin recording before making contact with any public member for a law enforcement purpose, including any incident or interaction that may result in a report, enforcement action, or serve as evidence in a criminal or civil investigation.

C.           If for any reason, the employee is unable to start the recording before making contact (for example, a subject unexpectedly approached an employee), the employee must start the recording as soon as safely practical.

D.  Employees equipped with a BWC and actively participating in an investigation must keep the camera activated for the entirety of the employee’s active participation, with the exceptions outlined in the following subsections –  (X. Terminating Recordings, XI. Photographs, XIV . Restrictions on Recordings).

E.            If feasible, employees will make every effort to activate the recording device to record an unexpected or noteworthy event that the employee witnesses (e.g., employee-involved traffic accident, moving traffic violation, etc.).

F.            Employees are responsible for activating recording devices as circumstances change.

G.           If a citizen requests that an employee stop recording during an event required to be recorded by policy, the employee will continue to record and explain to the citizen that Department policy requires recording the event.

H.           If an employee in possession of a BWC responds to a call for service and does not activate their camera, the reason for not activating it will be noted in the call slip, incident report, or supplement.  Employees responding to an incident requiring camera activation in the Detention Command that do not activate their camera will note the reasons for not activating it in an incident report or supplement.  Failure to initiate recording(s) and to abide by any other section of this policy may lead to corrective and/or disciplinary action.

IX.          Detention Command Secure Area

The secure area of the Detention Command is subject to the additional directives below in addition to all other directives in this policy.

A.           BWCs must be activated for –

1.            Any inmate disturbance or interaction that requires a response,

2.            A use of force,

3.            A medical emergency,

4.            Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) calls,

5.            Cell extractions,

6.            Planned forcible inmate movement,

7.            Emergency administration of psychotropic medication,

8.            Uncooperative inmates,

9.            Canine searches,

10.         Detention Command Containment Team (DCCT) events when instructed to record by proper authority,

11.         Instances where the employee reasonably believes the recording may provide evidence in a criminal or internal investigation, or

12. Any situation where the employee’s training and experience cause him or her to believe the incident needs to be recorded to enhance reports, preserve evidence, or to aid in subsequent court testimony.

B.           An employee may activate the camera at any time prior to responding to an incident requiring a response or upon arriving at the scene of the incident.

C.           If the BWC cannot be activated upon arriving at the scene of the incident, it must be activated as soon as it is practical and safe to do so.

D.           BWCs should not be used to record inmates in the shower or restroom areas of a secure detention facility, unless the inmate is aggressive, combative, or if the employee believes the use of the BWC to record the incident is imperative for the evidentiary purposes of the offense. If so, the BWC may be activated to record the employees’ actions and those actions of other parties involved.

E.            Prior to the end of each shift, the employee will ensure –

1.            The title of the video should be the OMS Case number (e.g., OMS 23-1015-XXX).

2.            Video, audio, and image evidence is properly categorized for retention on the server. Correctly label or classify the videos with one of the following corresponding events –

a.            Inmate Contact/Disturbance,

b.            Medical Emergency,

c.            Inmate Assault,

d.            Inmate Fight,

e.            Staff Assault,

f.            Emergency Administration of Psychotropic Medication,

g.            Use of Force, or

h.            For a violation of state law, select the most applicable category.

X.            Terminating Recordings

A.           Employees will deactivate the recording function of the BWC once the law enforcement, enforcement action, or investigation has concluded,

B.           Once the employee has determined that a recording is no longer required by policy (e.g., An “Unknown Medical Emergency” CFS is determined to be an elderly person with chest pains from a preexisting illness),

C.           When directed to end the recording by a supervisor,

D.           When the scene of the incident is safe and secure, or

E.            In the case of an employee-involved critical incident, once a public safety statement has been provided for the involved employee.

F.            In an employee-involved critical incident, the originally-involved employee(s) may end their recording in order to protect their rights during an investigation, including but not limited to their rights under Garrity vs. New Jersey, or while consulting with an attorney.  Other employees may be required to continue their recordings.

G.           As with all recordings, employees involved with an employee-involved critical incident who terminate their recordings are responsible for articulating why they terminated their recording. Employees terminating any recording will make a brief statement at the end of the recording accurately describing why they are ending the recording. Examples of this include – “End of contact”, “Ordered to end recording by Sergeant John Doe”, “Scene secure, nothing further significant expected”, “End recording, enforcement actions concluded”, etc. If a supervisor gives an order to stop recording, the supervisor’s name must be stated clearly.

H. An employee may choose to discontinue a recording currently in progress for any encounter with a person that is not related to an investigation or for the need to take photographs with the BWC during a current investigation.  In either case, the BWC should be reactivated afterwards if the situation still requires the BWC to be utilized.

XI.          Photographs

A.           Employees utilizing their BWC to take evidentiary photographs will verbally narrate that they are deactivating an active recording momentarily for this purpose.

B.           Once the photographs are taken, the employee will immediately restart the recording in compliance with this policy.

C.           If another employee equipped with a BWC is on the scene, the additional employee will activate their BWC (if not already started) while the primary employee photographs to prevent a gap in any video evidence.

D.           It is an employee’s responsibility to ensure that all evidentiary photographs are classified and appropriate notes are applied.

XII.         Messaging

A.           As the current BWC/ICC systems allow for the ability to send and receive messages, this function will only be used for legitimate law enforcement purposes to assist in disseminating mission-critical information. 

B.           Employees should be cognizant that the system retains all messaging, and these files are subject to open records requests and Brady disclosures.

XIII.        Documenting Recordings

A.           Employees will review recordings when preparing written reports to ensure accounts’ accuracy, comprehensiveness, and consistency.

B.           Employees will note in the offense report and/or arrest report when recordings were made during an incident.

C.           If an employee believes that a recorded event may lead to a citizen complaint, the employee will notify the employee’s immediate supervisor as soon as possible.

XIV.        Restrictions on Recordings

A.           Employees are not required to activate devices for the entire tour of duty/shift.  Activation should occur as required by this policy.

B.           Recording devices will be used only in conjunction with official law enforcement purposes. Officers should avoid recording and/or discontinue recordings in consideration of the need for privacy in certain situations and at certain locations.  For example, recording should not occur in the following situations and locations –

1.            Patient care areas of a healthcare or psychiatric facility, unless the patient becomes adversarial with the employee or others or as otherwise mandated above as a required recording. If so, the employee will record for law enforcement purposes only but not intentionally record any doctor/patient privileged conversations,

2.            Communications protected by attorney/client privilege,

3.            Activity in schools, unless mandated as a required recording,

4.            Administrative encounters with undercover employees or confidential informants,

5.            When discussing administrative information that is not part of any specific investigation, such as unit meetings, periodic performance evaluations, and roll calls,

6.            Autopsies,

7.            Strip searches of any person detained or arrested,

8.            As expressly authorized by the Bureau Commander and when working in concert with employees who are under federal deputation and who are carrying federal deputation credentials and are working on a federal operation under federal guidance, authority, and management,

9.            While on break or otherwise engaged in personal activities, or

10.         In any location where individuals have a reasonable expectation of personal privacy, such as a restroom or locker room (unless for investigative or enforcement activities and with valid and appropriate law enforcement purposes).

11.         Other Department Employees – Surreptitious audio or video recordings of employees by other employees is prohibited.

C. No employee may record, by any means, any conversation with another employee unless all the following criteria are met –

1. A legitimate purpose for the recording,

2. A recording device in plain view, and

3. Authorization by all parties to record the conversation. This will be verbally documented at the beginning of the recording.

D. A violation of this provision may result in disciplinary action, including termination.

E. This does not apply when the recording is conducted as part of an official criminal or administrative investigation where notice will be provided before the recording begins.

F. Employees should expect to be recorded by audio, video, or both when in physical proximity to an employee on an on-view incident or work assignment. In those mandated recordings per this policy, no prior permission from any other employee is required.

G. Employees assigned to serve in support of court activities will additionally avoid recording in these areas and proceedings, unless otherwise required by this policy –

1. During courtroom proceedings,

2. In court offices and ante-rooms,

3. In areas of the courthouse where confidential proceedings are occurring, which may include but is not necessarily limited to – 

a. jury deliberations, or

b. grand jury proceedings.

H. The Watch Commander/Dispatch Supervisors will not remotely activate BWC and ICC at a supervisor’s request solely to verify policy compliance or inquire about a user’s current location or actions.

1. This provision does not prohibit the Watch Commander/Dispatch Supervisors and BWC Administrator from using technological capabilities to locate an employee feared to have been harmed and incapacitated or who may need immediate aid.

2. The remote activation features will be employed judiciously and solely for employee safety or when employees would likely know their devices are being activated, e.g. active threat incident at an educational facility or civil disturbance detail at a courthouse. Employees should be cognizant that the system will alert the employee who is being viewed remotely at the time of the activation.

XV.         Supervisory Responsibilities

A.           Supervisory personnel who manage employees equipped with recording devices will show reasonable diligence and conduct checks to ensure that –

1.            Any employees who utilize recording devices do so by policy and procedures defined herein,

2.            Damaged or nonfunctional recording devices are adequately reported so that coordination for repairs can be made by authorized personnel,

3.            All recordings are uploaded daily,

4.            All recordings are tagged with the appropriate classifications, and

5.            The employee has documented recorded events in the associated report(s) and citation(s)/case documentation as needed to make the report or citation accurate and truthful.

6.   It must be emphasized that the employee issued or operating the recording device has the primary responsibility for seeing that the above provisions (1-5) are fulfilled.

7.  Supervisors may audit or inspect system metadata to ensure compliance with the provisions of this policy.

8. Supervisors may only access recordings with a valid and reasonable purpose. Such purposes include, but are not limited to –

a.            When reviewing incident reports as part of the report approval process,

b.  When investigating an allegation of misconduct as part of a preliminary investigation before a possible administrative investigation,

c.  To ensure a device is operating correctly,

d.  As part of conducting or assisting with an official criminal investigation, and

e.  As part of the random incident review process to ensure compliance with HCSO policy and procedure.

f.   To identify recordings that may be appropriate to enhance training programs.

g.  When a recording is selected for training, the criminal case must be completed and final disposition has occurred, or the investigation must be inactive.

h.  There will be written approval of the HCSO Academy Lieutenant prior to using any recording(s) for training purposes. The BWC Administrator will retain the written approval documentation, which will be entered into the Digital Evidence Management System. (An email that may be stored in the system will suffice.)

XVI.        Supervisory Random Incident Review Process

A.           Every quarter, each Watch Commander whose personnel  are assigned BWCs will perform a Random Incident Review from the BWC system. 

1.            The Watch Commander within the Law Enforcement Command will log into the Polaris system and run a random incident review report, randomly selecting four videos; two BWC call for service videos and two dash cam videos from traffic stops, from the entire pool of videos generated.  The Watch Commander within the Detention Command and the Administrative Operations Command will log into the Polaris system and run a random incident review report, randomly selecting four BWC videos from the entire pool of videos generated.

2.            They will review the recordings to determine whether current policies and practices are practical and if the department manual or training can be improved.

3.            Watch Commanders must provide a quarterly report to the Bureau Commander through the chain of command of audits conducted. The report must contain the following information and the exported report file from Polaris.

a. The date the audit was conducted,

b. The supervisor who conducted the review, and

c. Notes of what was observed, including whether the cameras were used correctly.

4.            If policy or training violations were discovered during the reviewing process, the Watch Commander or their designee must follow the Department Policy and Procedures to address observed violations.

XVII.       Performance evaluations of employees in the Probationary Patrol Deputy or Probationary Detention Officer programs.

A.           Recordings used to document employee performance as part of the probationary review process must be marked as probationary training by the supervisor who intends to use the recording as part of a performance evaluation.

B.           The supervisor who intends to use a recording as part of a probationary performance evaluation may select up to three (3) recordings as part of a single performance evaluation.

1.            The recording’s identifying information must be noted in the performance evaluation narrative for cross-referencing purposes.

2.            The employee being evaluated may recommend up to three (3) recordings (making a total of six (6) recordings) to be considered as part of their performance evaluation if they so desire.

XVIII.     Repair of Equipment

A.           Employees will always maintain the security of the equipment.

B.           No maintenance will be performed on camera equipment by anyone other than authorized personnel.

C.           Damage, loss, theft, or malfunction of recording equipment will be reported immediately by the assigned employee to the employee’s immediate supervisor via telephone or in person.

D.           The employee will electronically submit a Helpdesk ticket and copy the ticket initiation email to the employee’s immediate supervisor and the BWC Administrator.  The Helpdesk e mail address is –  [email protected].

E.            No unauthorized employee may make alterations to the equipment which would interfere with the regular operation of the hardware or software without the written prior approval of the BWC Administrator, Technical Support personnel, or the equipment vendor.

XIX.        BWC Maintenance and Technical Support Responsibilities

The implementation of the BWC system requires support from several different specialized units to efficiently and effectively operate the system to its full potential.

A.           Tomball Laptop Support Team

     Should an item become defective or need replacement, the employee will need to deliver the item to the Laptop Support Team, with supervisor approval, for repair or replacement. 

1.            The employee who has been issued hardware that needs services will be required to provide a case card before the team accepts the hardware for repair/replacement. An offense report is required with the basic information concerning the hardware.

2.            The items addressed by Laptop Support are –

a.            Bluetooth Triggers,

b.            Batteries for Bluetooth Triggers,

c.            Camera Holsters,

d.            Camera Screen Protectors,

e.            Camera Lens kits,

f.            All cables and charging pucks,

g.            Holster Sensors (and install kits),

h.            Tablets,

i.             Rockets,

j.             Body Worn Camera Kits, and

k.            Replacement Body Worn Cameras.

3.            Laptop Support handles all RMA issues directly with the BWC Vendor.

4.            For any lost/damaged hardware, a case card is required before any replacement or RMA may be issued. Hardware failures due to a defect do not require a case card.

5.            Configures new units for use in coordination with Inventory Control,

6.            Troubleshoots and diagnoses the Rocket IOTs in the vehicles (not done by Universal Services – this is a software issue, not hardware), and

7.  Distributes support assets as needed, other than as described in this policy, in the HCSO commands to better assist users.

B.           Fleet Services

1.            Performs hardware installs through direct installation or by a third-party contractor,

2.            Maintains new hardware inventory to facilitate initial installs and repairs with Vehicle Maintenance and the third-party vendor,

3.            Performs hardware-based troubleshooting and repairs at Vehicle Maintenance, and

4.            Wiring and sensor issues (trigger-based sensors – doors, light bars, etc.)

C.           Inventory Control (Academy Component)

1.            Issues new BWC kits during training evaluations for new hires during the onboarding process, and for –

a. Lateral Classes and

b. BPOC Classes

D.           High Tech Crime Unit –

1.            Addresses the identification and delivery of digital video data to –

a. The District Attorney’s Office/Prosecutors for court and defense delivery via Helios/Polaris,

b. The County Attorney’s Office for county legal proceedings, and

c. HCSO Legal Services

2.            Responsible for restricting access to sensitive data (child sexual assault images and videos).

3.            Assists with training –

a. New hires (BPOC/Lateral) as needed and when available,

b. Investigative personnel to use the Digital Evidence Management System more effectively.

4.            PIA and Open Records –

5.            Provide redaction of video as needed before the release of evidence when available,

6.            Addresses the roles and permissions of access for users,

7.            Ensures the integrity of the evidentiary data of the system,

8.            Addresses issues with the digital evidence management system (Availweb/Polaris/Helios),

9.            Interacts directly with Utility on issues affecting operation and logistics,

10.         Helps to facilitate new additions and programmatic changes/updates/upgrades,

11.         Aids with the operations of the Utility Platform interface,

12.         Provides testing feedback to Utility for processes and procedures,

13.         Continually evaluates new functions of the system for inclusion in the ecosystem of evidence for the HCSO, and

14. Oversees the storage of video and audio, creation of backup copies of the video and audio, and maintenance of data security otherwise as needed.

E.            Training Academy

1.            Provides initial training for all first responders through the BPOC/Lateral courses, and

2.            Provides continuing education courses for personnel regularly outside of the BPOC/Lateral course cycle

XX.         Complaints

A.           When the Internal Affairs Division receives a complaint against an employee, they may restrict videos related to the complaint using the process within Polaris.

B.           Supervisors and IAD personnel may access recordings for administrative investigations.

1.            The scope of the review of the recordings will be limited to the specific allegation(s) against the employee.

2.            Inadvertent discovery of other misconduct during this review will require the supervisor to articulate the purpose of expanding the scope of the review. Written permission to investigate inadvertently identified misconduct must be provided by the Commander of IAD, the Chief Deputy, or the Sheriff.

3.            Should an employee make a supervisor aware of a recorded event that may lead to an allegation of misconduct, the supervisor will review the recording for any possible misconduct and, if necessary, act as described within the department manual.

XXI.        Statements for Administrative Investigations

A.           If the employee is the subject of an administrative investigation, the employee will –

1.            Have the option of reviewing the relevant recordings in the presence of the employee’s attorney or labor representative, or uninvolved supervisor in the employee’s direct chain of command,

2.            Have the option to review recordings from other recording devices capturing the employee’s image or voice during the incident, and

3.            Have the option to review recordings before being interviewed as part of an administrative investigation.

4.            The review, at the employee’s request, may be conducted outside the sight and sound range of any investigator(s).

5.            There is no prescribed limit as to the number of times an employee may review the recordings before being interviewed, nor is there a time limit on how much time an employee may spend in consultation with their attorney, labor representative, or uninvolved supervisor in their direct chain of command while reviewing recordings. However, the amount of time spent will be reasonable concerning the length of the recordings to be reviewed.

a. The employee’s bureau commander will be the arbiter of how much time is reasonable on a case-by-case basis. However, the time permitted for reviewing said recordings will be at least three times the length for all videos to be reviewed.

B.           Any employee required to make a statement as part of an investigation may access any recording of the incident involving the employee before making the statement.

C.  Per Article 2.132(f) of the CCP – On the commencement of an investigation of a complaint of racial profiling in which a video or audio recording of the occurrence on which the complaint is based is made, a copy of the recording to the deputy who is the subject of the complaint will be provided promptly on their written request.

XXII.       Statements for Employee-Involved Critical Incidents

A.           An employee who provides a formal statement about an Employee-Involved Critical Incident will have the option of reviewing the relevant recording(s) in the presence of the employee’s attorney, labor representative, or uninvolved supervisor in the employee’s direct chain of command before making the statement.

B.           The review, at the employee’s request, may be conducted outside the sight and sound range of any investigator(s).

XXIII.      BWC Systems  Administrator Responsibilities

A.           The BWC Systems Administrator or designee will –

1.            Coordinate overall maintenance of the camera system, including all equipment,

2.            Maintain an accurate list of all users in the system and digital storage management system,

3.            Assign permissions and roles to users in the system based on assignment,

4.            Redact or delete any video with proper authorization, and

5.            Ensure that all metadata fields are populating correctly.

XXIV.      Record Control and Management

A.           Recordings may only be accessed with a valid and reasonable purpose.

B.           The system logs all functions performed on the camera equipment and software.

C.           Employees are responsible for any actions they take on the system, including viewing and sharing recordings made by others.

D.           Unauthorized dissemination of any recording is prohibited. It is a Class A misdemeanor for a peace officer or other employee of a law enforcement agency to release a recording created with a body worn camera without permission of the applicable law enforcement agency.

E.            Non-Department personnel will not be allowed to review recordings unless specifically authorized by the Sheriff or designee, unless otherwise provided by law, except –

1.            In the case of a criminal investigation where an image from a recording is used as an identification tool, e.g., confirmation that the person depicted is the person who committed an offense,

2.            In an emergency circumstance, as a means to identify a victim or other party, or

3.            To satisfy the prosecution and representation needs of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office staff.

F.            All images and sounds recorded by the recording devices are the exclusive property of the Department. Accessing, copying, or releasing files for non-law enforcement purposes is prohibited unless otherwise required by law or in conformance with other provisions of this policy.

XXV.       Retention Periods and Tagging

A.           Retention periods for all videos will fall into one of the following categories described in the Harris County Records Control Schedule approved by Commissioner’s Court on December 10th, 2019. The primary retention categories are –

1.            Routine Law Enforcement Communications and Recordings

     Video, audio, or other recordings or communications made of traffic stops (with no criminal offense greater than a minor traffic citation), routine civil process, and other routine law enforcement activities will be retained for a minimum of 90 days and then destroyed.

2.            Criminal Offense Investigations – Misdemeanors

     Video, audio, or other recordings of investigations of Class A, B, and C misdemeanors (excluding DWI), including unclassified violations of state law or local ordinance punishable by fine, will be retained for a minimum of 2 years and then destroyed.

3.            Criminal Offense Investigations – Second and Third Degree Felonies and Driving While Intoxicated

      Video, audio, or other recordings of investigations of Second and Third Degree felony charges and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offenses will be retained for a minimum of 10 years and then destroyed.

4.            Criminal Offense Investigations – First Degree and Capital Felonies

      Video, audio, or other recordings of investigations of First Degree and capital felony charges will be retained permanently and transferred to archives upon the final adjudication of all legal proceedings.

XXVI.      Public Access to and Release of Video/Audio Recordings

A.           The Legal Office will solely be responsible for the release of the record unless the Public Information Office releases the record at the direction of the Sheriff or his designee.  No recording will be released without agency permission.  No recording or information related to a juvenile suspect will be released.

1.  The only exception to this rule is releasing video evidence at the Homicide Division Lieutenant’s direction while working cooperative investigations with other law enforcement agencies.

2.  Should the Lieutenant direct a release of evidence, he or his designee will enter a case note into the Polaris interface explaining the authorization. 

3.  If the Sheriff or designee elects to disseminate a recording via the Public Information Office regarding a Critical Incident and portions of the recording may be lawfully redacted to protect the identity of involved employee(s) or others, the recording will be redacted regarding the employee’s image, voice, etc., in conformance with prevailing law.

B.           Except as provided by (C) below, a recording created with a body worn camera and documenting an incident that involves the use of deadly force by an employee or that is otherwise related to an administrative or criminal investigation of an employee may not be deleted, destroyed, or released to the public until all criminal matters have been finally adjudicated and all related administrative investigations have concluded.

C.           If it is determined the release of the recording as described in (B) furthers a law enforcement purpose, it may be released. 

D.           The HCSO may permit a person who is depicted in a recording of an incident described in (B) or, if the person is deceased, the person’s authorized representative, to view the recording, provided that HCSO determines that the viewing furthers a law enforcement purpose and provided that any authorized representative who is permitted to view the recording was not a witness to the incident. A person viewing a recording may not duplicate the recording or capture video or audio from the recording.  A permitted viewing of a recording under this subsection is not considered to be a release of public information for purposes of Chapter 552, Government Code.

E.            Subsections B through D above do not affect HCSO authority to withhold under Section 552.108, Government Code, information related to a closed criminal investigation that did not result in a conviction or a grant of deferred adjudication community supervision.

F.            Information that is or could be used as evidence in a criminal prosecution is subject to the requirements of Section 552.021, Government Code.  HCSO may –

1.  seek to withhold information subject to (F)  in accordance with procedures provided by Section 552.301, Government Code,

2.   assert any exceptions to disclosure in Chapter 552, Government Code, or other law, or

3.   release information requested by a member of the public under Occupations Code 1701.661 after the agency redacts any information made confidential under Chapter 552, Government Code, or other law.

G.           HCSO will not release any portion of a recording made in a private space, or of a recording involving the investigation of conduct that constitutes a misdemeanor punishable by fine only and does not result in arrest, without written authorization from the person who is the subject of that portion of the recording or, if the person is deceased, from the person’s authorized representative.

H.           Requests for open records may be submitted in the following ways –

1. (TPIA portal) – https://www.harriscountyso.org (Click on “Services”, then click on “Request a Record”.)

2. By Mail – HCSO, TPIA Legal, 1200 Baker Street, Houston, TX 77002

3. In person – same as the mailing address

4. Email – [email protected]

I.             The request must include –

1.  The date and approximate time of the recording,

2.  The specific location where the recording occurred, and

3.  The name of one or more persons known to be a subject of the recording.

J.            The HCSO charges $10 per video based on the Texas Attorney General’s guidelines and additional charges for reviewing before release.

K.            Release of Critical Incident Video

1.            HCSO will release body worn camera video recordings of Critical Incidents, after approval by the Sheriff, within 45 days of the date of the incident.

2.            Critical Incidents involving domestic violence will not be released unless determined it serves a law enforcement purpose.

3.            Critical Incidents recordings will be posted on the HCSO website and kept for 12 months.

4.            Except where release is prohibited by law, any decision to delay release beyond the 45 days in this procedure will be posted on HCSO’s website stating the reason(s) for the delay. The recordings should be released as soon as the reason(s) for the delay has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Sheriff. An official statement will be given for the reasons why the release is being delayed.

5.            Reasons to delay the release of a recording will be determined by the Sheriff and may include –

a.            To protect the safety of the individuals involved,

b.            To protect the integrity of an active investigation, or

c.            To protect the integrity of potential prosecution or used as evidence during court trial.

L.            Critical Incident Video Release Procedure

1.            The Media Relations Unit will be responsible for preparing the recording of the Critical Incident for public release, with the contents to be reviewed for legal compliance with applicable state and federal law.

2.            Once the release of the recordings is approved by the Sheriff, the Media Relations Unit will notify the Chief Deputy who will designate an Assistant Chief to make the following notifications 24 to 72 hours prior to the release –

a.            Employees depicted in the video,

b.            Subject upon whom force was used or subject’s legal counsel if applicable, and

c.            If the subject is deceased, the next of kin will be notified.

d.            Harris County Attorney, and

e.            Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

M.          Release-Limited Waiver

The release of any specific recording does not waive HCSO’s right to withhold other recordings or information in the same case or any other case, as permitted by law. This procedure is not intended to displace or supersede any legal right or remedy available to any entity, and it is also not intended to prevent or hinder compliance by HCSO with respect or any legal disclosure requirements.

XXX.   Use of BWCs during USMS Task Force Operations

A.  In this section – 

1.  “USMS” refers to the United States Marshals Service.

2.  “DOJ” refers to the United States Department of Justice.

3.  “TFO” refers to a Task Force Officer, and is an HCSO certified employee assigned to a Federal task force as a deputized Federal agent.

B. Members of the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitive Task Force will adhere to the DOJ Policy, USMS’s Standard Operating Procedures for Body Worn Camera Program for Task Force Officers, and other applicable federal and USMS policies, procedures, regulations, and laws, including those relating to federal records retention and information access while involved in Task Force operations, per the currently existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) between HCSO and the USMS plus any additions. 

C.  Where HCSO BWC policy and/or state law conflicts with the USMS activation and deactivation parameters, TFOs will follow the provisions in MOU Appendix “A” that identify how to properly mark sections of a recording to ensure that the USMS task force operation captured on footage is easily identifiable.  This will prevent the ingestion of non-task force related footage into the USMS video retention solution and allow USMS to promptly respond to requests for BWC footage.

D. In the event the MOU is updated after the effective date of this policy in a manner that further conflicts with the HCSO BWC policy, the provisions of the MOU will be followed by assigned TFOs.


Texas Occupations Code Sec 1701.655 – 1701.663

Texas Botham Jean Act – 87(R) HB 929

Texas CCP Article 2


This policy has been revised on the below listed dates –

December 4, 2014

March 23, 2017

February 7, 2019

March 9, 2020

April 25, 2024

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