Audit: lack of oversight for APD’s body camera program

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — An audit of Austin Police Department body camera practices found there wasn’t enough oversight watching for mistakes made while ingesting and keeping track of video.

City auditors found that APD supervisors had not been inspecting the footage to detect and correct issues.

That goes against APD policy, which states that “supervisors should perform inspections” of officers in their chain-of-command.

As a result, the auditors said there were other discrepancies with the video footage collected.

“A review of body-worn camera video revealed that some videos were not started and stopped properly, camera view was sometimes blocked, and video categorization was not added consistently or accurately,” the audit reads.

READ IT YOURSELF: Complete Draft Audit Report on APD body-worn cameras

Of the videos examined in the audit, 5% were not categorized in the system at all. 12% were categorized incorrectly.

That could result in important evidence being deleted prematurely.

“When it’s a department as big as we are, at over 1900 sworn folks that carry the cameras, we’re going to make mistakes,” said APD Assistant Chief Joe Chacon.

Auditors also wrote that APD staff does not track information requests received for body-worn camera videos so they could not say if APD was releasing or withholding the footage.

“Without clear recordings that show the entire interaction between officers and the public, along with proper tagging of those interactions, the goal of creating greater transparency and accountability cannot be fully achieved,” the audit found.

The audit made three recommendations moving forward:

  • APD’s police chief should make sure quarterly supervisory inspections of body cameras are taking place
  • APD should designate someone to oversee the body camera program
  • APD should regularly report on body camera video information requests

APD adopted body cameras in 2015 with the aim of creating greater transparency and accountability. As of April, all sworn APD officers except for chiefs and commanders were assigned a body cam.

Last year, the department admitted there were challenges in rolling out the program to many officers. Officials said sometimes the camera would fall off the uniform or sometimes the camera would not work.

The audit was released as a video backlog looms over the entire department.

More than 10,000 dash and body camera videos have yet to be processed by police. APD tells us that’s about 10 months’ worth.

The audit gave APD credit for identifying and correcting those issues to make the cameras more effective. That included the purchase of “butterfly” mounts that the audit says more securely attached the camera to the officer’s uniform.

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