Austin Police Department
Nationwide, local law enforcement is undergoing a critical transformation. With increased calls for transparency and accountability, some police departments have been forced to examine how they engage with their constituencies. The Austin Police Department (APD) has risen to the challenge with multiple technology projects that illuminate its work and facilitate community engagement.
Launching in the fall of 2017, APD deployed more than 600 body-worn cameras. “Everywhere that officer goes, that camera is going to go with them,” explained Assistant Chief Ely Reyes at a press conference in October 2017. “You’re going to have video and you’re going to have audio of that interaction with the community.”
The body-worn camera program is a crucial part of APD’s commitment to enhancing accountability, openness and transparency in how its officers interact with the community. Additionally, the audio and video footage collected by the cameras provide valuable documentation for police officers on patrol.
“[Body cam footage] can be used for evidentiary value,” Reyes added. “That goes to statements that victims make, statements that witnesses make, and also any statements that a suspect might make on camera as well.” Also in 2017, the Austin Police Department launched a new online tool to help residents save a trip to police headquarters. Leveraging the power of the LexisNexis database, the tool provides easy access to car accident reports online, making it easier for citizens to file insurance claims. Not only does the online portal decrease staff time spent on paperwork, it also supplies APD with valuable data that can be used to create safer roadways.
Finally, APD launched “Deputize Your Camera”, a private-public program to engage local businesses through security cameras. The pilot encourages businesses to register their security cameras with the police department, allowing APD to view security camera footage in real time. If successful, this program will allow for a more robust response from law enforcement and produce evidence if an incident does occur.