AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, the Austin Police Department implemented a new policy that requires the public release of department-recorded video of critical incidents in which someone was killed or seriously injured by an officer.
Per the new policy, the footage must be released within 60 days. The footage could be from officers’ body worn cameras, patrol vehicles’ dash cameras or any other source of video recorded by APD.
APD adopted body cameras in 2015 and the department began issuing them to officers in 2016.
However, before Monday, the department wasn’t required to release its footage of officer-involved shootings or other deadly force incidents to the general public. Generally, a public information request would need to be submitted for anyone to see the video.
Earlier this year, Austin City Council ordered a change, in an effort for more transparency.
The new policy says, within 60 days of a “critical incident,” APD must release the associated video on a public website.
The policy says “in recognizing that a video may not tell the whole story, the Department will also provide the necessary context when making video publicly available so the public has the most accurate picture of what occurred based on the information known at the time of release.”
There are only a few circumstances where the department would be allowed to withhold the video. Per the policy, that would include if it could put an officer, witness, or another involved party at risk, if it could hurt the integrity of an active investigation or criminal prosecution, if confidential sources or techniques can be seen or if it might violate the constitutional rights of someone who’s accused.
In those cases, the police chief would give public notice within 45 days that he’s not releasing the video and give an explanation as to why.
The new policy may apply in the cases of two protesters shot with non-lethal bullets over the weekend, because they were hospitalized with serious injuries.
In the case of Mike Ramos, who was shot and killed by an Austin Police officer in late April, APD says it plans to release its footage in compliance with the new policy.
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday says it will likely take months for the department to review all of the body camera footage from the weekend’s protests. Supervisors have to review footage from every time officers used any kind of force — including when they pepper sprayed protesters.