AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department should have more specific guidelines for its body-worn cameras and dash cameras and incorporate more community input to craft them, according to recommendations from the Office of Police Oversight.

The OPO released the report Thursday. Its analysis was prompted after the City Council passed resolutions in June 2020 related to “reimagining public safety,” including combating racism and updating use-of-force policies. The Austin City Manager has asked the OPO to provide recommendations on APD’s General Orders, which are the policies it uses.

For example, the OPO suggests APD update the “purpose statement” for camera use in its policies. It said the current statements either focus on potential uses or benefits to officers and don’t go far enough to “set the tone” to guide why they should be used.

“Such a purpose should be focused on improving community relations and prioritize increasing transparency with the community, eliminating racial disparities in policing, and reducing use-of-force incidents,” it said.

Some of the recommendations center on updating the policies surrounding police cameras use to align with both the City’s “Reimagining Public Safety” initiative and the new state law named after a Dallas man killed in his own apartment by an off-duty officer. The “Botham Jean Act” went into effect in September and requires officers to keep their body cameras on during active investigations.

The OPO also highlighted some areas where APD policies could be more clear, such as when officers should activate and deactivate their cameras and how officers should let people know they’re being recorded. It also points out the current orders don’t require officers to document when they use a camera and doesn’t have supervisors inspect the cameras to make sure they’re working properly.

A University of Texas study released last year showed wearing body cameras “decreases people’s sense of polarization and conflict with those they serve,” according to the researcher.

This report from the OPO is just the first step before APD’s General Orders can be updated. The next step is getting feedback from the community, who can look at the report online and respond through events or surveys. Then, the OPO will submit that and its updated recommendations to APD, which must bring changes to its General Order to City Council for feedback.

KXAN is reaching out to APD Chief Joseph Chacon for a response to the recommendations and will update this story with his response.

Body-worn cameras were first tested in the U.S. for law enforcement in 2012, while dash cameras have been used since the 90s, according to the OPO’s report. APD started using the body-worn cameras in 2015.

In July 2021, the Austin Police Department changed how it releases body camera video as well as the timeline for that release. Now, the video is supposed to be available 10 business days from when an officer-involved shooting, in-custody death or use-of-force incident happens. Previously, the department had a 60-day deadline.