Audio & Video Recording (Body Cams)

Portable Audio/Video Recorders - Policy 421

421.1 Purpose & Scope

  • This policy provides guidelines for the use of portable audio/video recording devices, to include the use of Body Worn Cameras (BWC), by members of this department while in the performance of their duties. Portable audio/video recording devices include all recording systems whether body-worn, hand held or integrated into portable equipment (ORS 133.741).
  • This policy does not apply to mobile audio/video recordings, interviews or interrogations conducted at any Forest Grove Police Department facility, authorized undercover operations, wiretaps or eavesdropping (concealed listening devices).

421.2 Policy

  • The Forest Grove Police Department may provide members with access to portable recorders, either audio or video or both, for use during the performance of their duties.The use of recorders is intended to enhance the mission of the Department by accurately capturing contacts between members of the Department and the public.

421.3 Member Privacy Expectation

  • All recordings made by members on any department-issued device at anytime, and any recording made while acting in their official capacity of this department, regardless of ownership of the device it was made on, shall remain the property of the Department. Members shall have no expectation of privacy or ownership interest in the content of these recordings.

421.4 Member Responsibilities

  • Prior to going into service, each uniformed member will be responsible for making sure that he/ she is equipped with a portable recorder issued by the Department, and that the recorder is in good working order. If the recorder is not in working order or the member becomes aware of a malfunction at any time, the member shall promptly report the failure to his/her supervisor and obtain a functioning device as soon as reasonably practicable. Uniformed members should wear the recorder in a conspicuous manner or otherwise notify persons that they are being recorded, whenever reasonably practicable.
  • Any member assigned to a non-uniformed position may carry an approved portable recorder at any time the member believes that such a device may be useful. Unless conducting a lawful recording in an authorized undercover capacity, non-uniformed members should wear the recorder in a conspicuous manner when in use or otherwise notify persons that they are being recorded, whenever reasonably practicable.
  • When using a portable recorder, the assigned member shall record his/her name, Forest Grove Police Department identification number and the current date and time at the beginning and the end of the shift or other period of use, regardless of whether any activity was recorded.This procedure is not required when the recording device and related software captures the user's unique identification and the date and time of each recording.
  • Members should document the existence of a recording in any report or other official record of the contact, including any instance where the recorder malfunctioned or the member deactivated the recording. Members should include the reason for deactivation.

421.5 Activation of the Portable Recorder

  • This policy is not intended to describe every possible situation in which the portable recorder should be used, although there are many situations where its use is appropriate. Members should activate the recorder any time the member believes it would be appropriate or valuable to record an incident.
  • The portable recorder should be activated in any of the following situations:
    • All enforcement and investigative contacts including stops and field interview (FI) situations
    • Traffic stops including, but not limited to, traffic violations, stranded motorist assistance and all crime interdiction stops
    • Self-initiated activity in which a member would normally notify Dispatch
    • Any other contact that becomes adversarial after the initial contact in a situation that would not otherwise require recording
  • When using Body Worn Cameras the following should be followed:
    • Interviews with sexual assault victims generally SHOULD NOT be recorded. Exceptions to this rule may include:
      • The case has a heavy domestic violence component (see Number 2 below).
      • The case has unique facts or circumstances that would benefit from video documentation, and the victim consents to being recorded.
    • Interviews with sexual assault victims whose sexual assault occurred as part of a domestic violence relationship generally SHOULD be recorded.
    • Interviews with witnesses generally SHOULD be recorded; however, special consideration may need to be taken when the witness is a child.
    • Interviews with suspects generally SHOULD be recorded.
  • When a Public Records Request is made for BWC footage, the following factors should always be considered:
    • Court and District Attorney records should be consulted to see whether a protective order is in place which prohibits release of records.
    • ORS192.502(2)) may prohibit release of this material if it is deemed to be "information of a personal nature" that release of which would constitute an "unreasonable invasion of privacy."
    • Release of any records regarding minors may likewise be prohibited by statute.
  • Unless there are exigent circumstances or concerns for the safety of the member or any other person, body-worn cameras shall be activated whenever the officer has or develops reasonable suspicion or probable cause that an offense has been or will be committed by a person in contact with the member (ORS 133.741).
  • Members shall notify all parties to the conversation that a recording is being made unless pursuant to a court order or the limited exceptions in ORS165.540 subsections (2 )through (7) and ORS133.726 (prostitution offenses, felonies when exigency makes obtaining a warrant unreasonable, certain felony drug offenses, felonies that endangers human life) (ORS 165.540).
  • Members should remain sensitive to the dignity of all individuals being recorded and exercise sound discretion to respect privacy by discontinuing recording whenever it reasonably appears to the member that such privacy may outweigh any legitimate law enforcement interest in recording. Requests by members of the public to stop recording should be considered using this same criterion. Recording should resume when privacy is no longer at issue unless the circumstances no longer fit the criteria for recording.
  • At no time is a member expected to jeopardize his/her safety in order to activate a portable recorder or change the recording media. However, the recorder should be activated in situations described above as soon as reasonably practicable.

421.5.1 Surreptitious Use of the Portable Recorder

  • Oregon law generally prohibits any individual from surreptitiously recording any conversation, except as provided in ORS 165.540 and ORS 165.543.
  • Members shall not surreptitiously record another department member without a court order unless lawfully authorized by the Chief of Police or the authorized designee.

421.5.2 Cessation of Recording

  • Once activated, the portable recorder should remain on continuously until the member reasonably believes that his/her direct participation in the incident is complete or the situation no longer fits the criteria for activation. Recording may be stopped during significant periods of inactivity such as report writing or other breaks from participation in the incident.

421.5.3 Explosive Device

  • Many portable recorders, including body-worn cameras and audio/video transmitters, emit radio waves that could trigger an explosive device. Therefore, these devices should not be used where an explosive device may be present.

421.6 Prohibited Use of Portable Recorders

  • Members are prohibited from using department-issued portable recorders and recording media for personal use and are prohibited from making personal copies of recordings created while on-duty or while acting in their official capacity.
  • Members are also prohibited from retaining recordings of activities or information obtained while on-duty, whether the recording was created with department-issued or personally owned recorders. Members shall not duplicate or distribute such recordings, except for authorized legitimate department business purposes. All recordings shall be retained at the Department or by a Department approved third-party vendor.
  • Members are prohibited from using personally owned recording devices while on-duty without the express consent of the Shift Supervisor. Any member who uses a personally owned recorder for department-related activities shall comply with the provisions of this policy, including retention and release requirements, and should notify the on-duty supervisor of such use as soon as reasonably practicable.
  • Recordings shall not be used by any member for the purpose of embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.

421.6.1 Prohibited Use of Body-Worn Camera Recordings

  • Recordings from body-worn video cameras shall not be analyzed with facial recognition or other biometric matching technology (ORS 133741).

421.7 Identification & Preservation of Recordings

  • To assist with identifying and preserving data and recordings, members should download, tag or mark these in accordance with procedure and document the existence of the recording in any related case report.
  • A member should transfer, tag or mark recordings when the member reasonably believes:
    • The recording contains evidence relevant to potential criminal, civil or administrative matters.
    • A complainant, victim or witness has requested non-disclosure.
    • A complainant, victim or witness has not requested non-disclosure but the disclosure of the recording may endanger the person.
    • Disclosure may be an unreasonable violation of someone's privacy.
    • Medical or mental health information is contained.
    • Disclosure may compromise an undercover officer or confidential informant.
  • Any time a member reasonably believes a recorded contact may be beneficial in a non-criminal matter (e.g., a hostile contact), the member should promptly notify a supervisor of the existence of the recording.

421.8 Review of Recorded Media Files

  • When preparing written reports, members should review their recordings as a resource (see the Officer-Involved Shootings and Deaths Policy for guidance in those cases). However, members shall not retain personal copies of recordings. Members should not use the fact that a recording was made as a reason to write a less detailed report.
  • Supervisors are authorized to review relevant recordings any time they are investigating alleged misconduct or reports of meritorious conduct or whenever such recordings would be beneficial in reviewing the member's performance. Review of recordings for the purpose of general performance evaluations is not authorized.
  • Recorded files may also be reviewed:
    • Upon approval by a supervisor, by any member of the Department who is participating in an official investigation, such as a personnel complaint, administrative investigation or criminal investigation.
    • Pursuant to lawful process or by court personnel who are otherwise authorized to review evidence in a related case.
    • By media personnel with permission of the Chief of Police or the authorized designee.
    • In compliance with a public records request, if permitted, and in accordance with the Records Maintenance and Release Policy.
  • All recordings should be reviewed by the Custodian of Records prior to public release (see the Records Maintenance and Release Policy). Recordings that unreasonably violate a person's privacy or sense of dignity should not be publicly released unless disclosure is required by law or order of the court.

421.9 Coordinator

  • The Chief of Police or the authorized designee should designate a coordinator responsible for:
  • Establishing procedures for the security, storage and maintenance of data and recordings.
  • Establishing procedures for accessing data and recordings.
  • Establishing procedures for logging or auditing access.
  • Establishing procedures for transferring, downloading, tagging or marking events.
  • Conducting quarterly audits of random recordings to confirm compliance with this policy.

421.10 Retention of Recordings

  • All recordings shall be retained for a period consistent with the requirements of the organization's records retention schedule but in no event for a period less than 180 days.
  • Recordings made from body-worn video cameras no longer needed for a court proceeding or an ongoing criminal investigation shall not be retained for more than 30 months (ORS 133.741).

421.10.1 Release of Audio/Video Recordings

  • Requests for the release of audio/video recordings shall be processed in accordance with the Records Maintenance and Release Policy.

421.10.2 Storage of Data by Vendors

  • Any contract with a third-party vendor for data storage of recordings from body-worn video cameras must state that all recordings are the property of the Forest Grove Police Department, not owned by the vendor, and cannot be used by the vendor for any purpose inconsistent with the policies and procedures of the Forest Grove Police Department (ORS 133.741).