UTPD testing body cameras, reviewing policies for implementation

Lauren Florence

While the University police department is currently testing some body cameras, there is no firm date for when the cameras will be fully implemented by the officers, according to UTPD Chief David Carter.

Carter said the department wants to add body cameras to increase police transparency, but persistent issues such as storage of information, individual privacy and cost of the technology still need to be solved before the cameras are used officially.

All of these policy considerations are being worked through so UTPD can find the best practices to model itself after, Carter said.

“We are working with looking at best practices of other police departments … and also looking at trying to find a good policy model,” Carter said. “UT System is also looking at issues regarding solid polices, so I would anticipate that we’d have some better information as to when we could possibly roll out this on a large scale in the coming, hopefully, weeks or months.”

Austin Police Department approved a budget for body cameras in September and plans to have officers with body cameras by next year.

Carter said as body cameras are being rolled out in police departments around the country, the line between transparency and privacy is blurred.

“There’s no con to using a body camera, because it is about transparency, but we have to ensure people’s privacy concerns are addressed, as well as how do we manage the storage and the costs associated with that,” Carter said.

Carter said the budget is a major driver for any police department as it relates to technology, including body cameras. University police officers who have regular contact with the community would be the first ones wearing body cameras,
Carter said.

Government freshman Sofia Martin Huerta said she feels body cameras are both good for officers and citizens, especially because people will be less scared to approach an officer or to be stopped by an officer. She said privacy protection is her immediate worry for the introduction of body cameras.

“I feel like nothing’s going to be private, especially when you’re talking to a police officer and you want to tell him something private, and it’s not going to end up private,” Martin Huerta said.

Carter said the student body is reflective of society in general, so students with worries about police transparency are to be expected.

“As there are questions and concerns about police conduct and police accountability, as well as concerns about privacy, I would imagine the student body would simply reflect [those] same sentiments that we would see and expect throughout society,” Carter said.

Electrical engineering senior Brandon Dyer said he feels the possible use of body cameras does not make him feel any more or less safe.

“I honestly haven’t really interacted with UTPD on campus at all, so it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference to me, honestly,” Dyer said.

Carter said as the goal of implementing body cameras continues, University police will gauge the policies of other police departments to help form their own.

“As this continues to develop, we’ll carefully monitor and see what successes police departments have, and also what challenges and how they overcome the challenges,” Carter said. “We’re not going to try and reinvent the wheel, so to speak, but we do see value in this [technology].”