City audit shows APD supervisors are not reviewing body camera footage

Body worn cameras are arguably a huge move to promote transparency in policing.

“They mount the camera up. They have to perform a number of checks, including making sure that camera is being activated by the car like it's supposed to with that Bluetooth burst,” said Austin Police Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon.

APD rolled them out to their nearly 2,000 officers a little over a year ago. Now the city is releasing performance information after an audit.

Out of 151 videos that were reviewed, the numbers show promising results with only four percent of videos having a lens blocked. Another four percent end up stopping before the end of the incident. A larger number of concern was the 12 percent that were not categorized correctly.

“Everybody makes mistakes. We try to teach them so they won’t make those same mistakes if we see an officer who continually makes mistakes then we have to take stronger measures,” said Chacon.

The audit also found that some supervisors were not reviewing the footage.

“We were in the process of retooling our audit process overall. Not just for body worn cameras but for everything we audit," Chacon said. "That took a number of months, and during that time some supervisors took that as I don't need to do anything right now, most supervisors were still conducting their audits. The city auditor did find one or more who said no I hadn't conducted an audit."

Another concern is the 38 officers deputized under various federal task forces. Federal law enforcement agencies do not want body cameras used at all, but what the department does not want to do is remove those officers from those task forces for that reason alone.

“That's an ongoing discussion that the chief and chiefs across the country are having with Department of Justice officials to see how can we come to some kind of a middle ground on that,” said Chacon.

The audit shows there is room for improvement, but overall the department feels the numbers set them up for a positive future with the technology.

“I want to thank you and the department for adopting a new technology fairly quickly, it's not always easy to do that, the police department is not a software development company,” said council member Jimmy Flannigan.

“We envisioned over ten years ago, of having a police force that was open, honest, could accept criticism and also say we can get better. What I hear from Manley is, we can always be better,” said Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP.

Linder feels the future can be promising when the department can continue to be open and honest.

“We've got a history of folks saying different things, there was no third eye, there was no mediator, and these cameras don't typically lie,” said Linder.

Chacon has now ensured the department will have a quarterly review of body camera footage.