Austin, Texas, police vow timely release of sensitive body-cam videos

by Reuters
Friday, 23 July 2021 23:22 GMT

Elizabeth Gonzales holds back tears as she speaks about the shooting of her son, Alex Gonzales, in Red Rock, Texas, U.S., June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Mikala Compton

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A complex thicket of U.S. laws stymies public access to body-camera footage as activists urge law enforcement to release video to increase transparency and accountability in policing

By Alexandra Ulmer

July 23 - Police in Austin, Texas, on Friday said they would release video from officers' body cameras within 10 business days of incidents that led to serious injuries or deaths, down from 60 days under a policy in which delays were frequent.

A Reuters article earlier this month detailed how, since Austin enacted a 60-day release policy last year, only a single body camera video has been released on time - in a non-fatal police shooting. Footage from three fatal police shootings was made public past the deadline. In at least 10 use-of-force incidents during Black Lives Matter protests last year, the department did not release any video.

In a statement on Friday, the Austin Police Department vowed to publish footage within 10 business days and stressed it was committed to building trust with the community.

"The goal is to publicly release critical incident video footage in a timely manner utilizing a streamlined process," the Austin PD said.

Joseph Chacon, Austin's interim police chief, had told Reuters there have been legitimate reasons for delays in releasing video, including insufficient resources for the time-intensive process of preparing the footage for public disclosure. He said he wanted to reduce processing time by no longer editing videos and instead release near-raw footage.

Friday's statement from his department did not detail whether that would be the case or how Austin police would meet the much tighter deadline.

Across the United States, where a complex thicket of laws stymies public access to body-camera footage, activists have urged law enforcement to release video to increase transparency and accountability in policing.

Civil rights activists who have pushed the Austin police department to release video quickly did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer, Editing by Donna Bryson and Sonya Hepinstall)

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