BWC Activation

Does policy specify when officers are to activate the BWC?

Sample Policy 1: Assigned personnel shall activate the BWC to record all contacts with citizens in the performance of official duties. It is strongly recommended that assigned personnel activate the body camera prior to arriving at high-priority calls for service for evidentiary collection and officer safety reasons.
Sample Policy 2: BWCs shall be utilized to record contacts with citizens in the performance of official duties. Examples of such contacts include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. The officer has contact with a citizen as a result of a call for service or request for police assistance, including walk-in complaints at Cherry Hill Police headquarters.
  2. The officer initiates a consensual field inquiry.
  3. The officer initiates an investigative detention, such as a traffic stop, criminal suspicion stop (“Terry Stop”), checkpoint, or roadblock stop.
  4. The officer responds to a call for service.
  5. The officer is conducting a motorist aid or community caretaking check.
  6. The officer is interviewing a witness in the course of investigating a criminal offense.
  7. The officer is conducting a custodial interrogation of a suspect, unless the interrogation is otherwise being recorded in accordance with Rule 3:17 (electronic recording of a station-house interrogation).
  8. The officer is making an arrest.
  9. The officer is conducting a protective frisk for weapons.
  10. The officer is conducting any kind of search (consensual or otherwise).
  11. The officer is engaged in a police response to any type of civil disorder in circumstances where the officer is engaged with or in the presence of civilians, and the officer or any other officer on the scene may be required to employ constructive authority or force.
  12. The officer uses constructive authority or force, or reasonably believes that constructive authority or force may be used in any encounter or situation not otherwise listed in this section based on specific and articulable facts warranting heightened caution that are documented by narration on the recording and/or in any investigation or incident report.
  13. The officer is transporting an arrestee to a police station, county jail, other place of confinement, or a hospital or other medical care or mental health facility.
  14. The officer reasonably believes that any other officer on the scene has undertaken or is engaged in any of the foregoing police actions/activities.
  15. Nothing in this policy precludes an officer from activating the camera if he/she feels that during the course of their duties circumstances dictate that it is reasonably necessary or prudent to do so.

Sample Policy 3: BWCs shall be utilized in the following situations:

  1. All calls for service, unless outlined in Section B;
  2. When in emergency operation mode;
  3. All pursuits;
  4. All enforcement actions, to include but not limited to the following:
    1. arrests
    2. traffic stops
    3. street encounters
    4. foot pursuits.
  5. When administering Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST);
  6. Any situation the officer feels is appropriate, unless prohibited by law or this policy;
  7. Any situation at the direction of a supervisor;
  8. Prisoner transports; and
  9. Show-ups or other identification procedures.

Does policy specify if officers have discretion on when to activate BWC?

Sample Policy 1: Discretionary Recording: This policy does not describe every possible situation where the BWC may be activated. Beyond the mandated 10 scenarios in the section above, a sworn member may activate the BWC anytime they believe it should be activated based on their training, experience, and judgment, except for the Prohibited Recordings in the following policy section.
Sample Policy 2: Once activated, the BWC shall remain on until the incident has concluded, meaning all arrests are made, arrestees transported, and victim/witness/suspect interviews completed unless

  1. the incident or event is of such duration that the BWC is stopped to conserve power or storage capacity;
  2. the officer reasonably believes deactivation will not result in the loss of critical documentary information; and/or
  3. deactivation is approved or ordered by a supervisor.

BWCs may be deactivated during nonenforcement activities such as waiting for a tow truck or a family member to arrive, protecting accident scenes, or in other nonenforcement situations. Nothing in this section should discourage any sworn personnel from recording during nonenforcement situations when, in his or her judgment, the recording may be beneficial.

Does policy provide guidance on citizen notification of BWC recording?

Sample Policy 1: The officer must provide notice of recording to any person if the person has a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy and proof of notice must be evident in the recording. If exigent circumstances exist that prevent the officer from providing notice, notice must be provided as soon as practicable.
Sample Policy 2: When feasible, officers are encouraged to inform members of the public that they are being recorded. If asked, officers should inform those inquiring that audio-video recording equipment is in use, unless doing so would be unsafe for the officer or members of the public.
Sample Policy 3: As a “one-party consent” state (meaning that only one party to a communication needs to consent for a recording of the communication to be legal), there is not a duty to notify citizens when recording. If a suspect, witness, victim, or any citizen asks if they are being recorded, sworn personnel may answer truthfully and are encouraged to do so. However, if the sworn member reasonably believes a different answer is necessary for furtherance of the investigation or safe/efficient handling of call, the sworn personnel may answer as they believe is necessary.
Sample Policy 4: This policy does not require the officers to inform individuals whom they have encountered that their body-worn camera (BWC) is activated and recording audio/video.
Sample Policy 5: The BWC should be activated (audio and video) for all incidents involving citizen contact. Officers shall not be required to inform persons that they are being recorded by wearable video recorders (WVRs) and/or Flex cameras.

Does policy provide guidance on BWC recording of crime victims and other sensitive populations?

This sample policy language is further divided into sections by the populations that may need to be considered, such as informants, undercover officers, juveniles, crime victims and witnesses, patients in medical care facilities, and exposed individuals.
Informants and Undercover Officers
Sample Policy 1: Department members shall not intentionally record confidential informants or undercover officers unless the recording is conducted specifically for the purpose of documenting a sting, drug purchase/sale, or other undercover operation in furtherance of a criminal investigation.
Sample Policy 2: An officer shall not activate a BWC, or shall deactivate a BWC that has been activated, if the officer knows or reasonably believes that the BWC would capture the image of an undercover officer or confidential informant, or otherwise would pose risk to the safety of an undercover officer or confidential informant, unless such activation is expressly authorized by a supervisor, or unless the exigency of the situation and danger posed to an officer (e.g., active shooter, actual use of force, officer in distress, etc.) require that the encounter/incident be recorded, in which event the officer shall inform his or her supervisor that the image of an undercover officer or confidential informant was recorded.
Juveniles
Sample Policy 1: It is recognized that recordings of juvenile offenders will occur by the use of body-worn cameras when officers are responding to calls for service or during the course of an investigation. Officers shall protect recordings of juveniles captured with the body-worn cameras the same as still photographs of juveniles. If an officer has a need to use body-worn camera recordings of juvenile offenders as part of an investigation, the officer shall comply with state or any other applicable law.
Sample Policy 2: Once it has been determined that a victim or witness is a juvenile, an officer should consult with their supervisor prior to initiating a recording of an interview or statement. A parent or guardian should be contacted prior to recording, if at all possible. At scenes where there is a mixture of adults and juveniles, officers are NOT required to deactivate their BWC simply because a juvenile is present. While on school grounds during school-related activities, routine recording of students and school administrators is not permitted and should be limited to only those instances where there is a substantial likelihood that an officer will be required to use force.
Crime Victims and Witnesses
Sample Policy 1: The BWC shall be utilized by any department member assigned this device during all investigative or enforcement contacts. However, there may be limited circumstances when the respect for an individual’s privacy or dignity outweighs the need to record an event (e.g., a victim traumatized following a violent assault). When an officer believes such circumstances exist, or that use of a BWC would impede or limit the cooperation of a victim or witness during an investigative contact, an officer may deactivate the BWC after receiving authorization from a supervisor.
Sample Policy 2: When members are interacting with victims, witnesses and others from the community who request not to be recorded, members shall

  1. balance the value of obtaining a recording with the reluctance of a victim, witness, or others from the community to provide information while being recorded;
  2. use discretion in making the decision;
  3. not turn off the BWC if the suspect of a crime is present;
  4. state the reason prior to the deactivation if the member deactivates the BWC at the request of the witness.

Sample Policy 3: Officers shall not use their BWCs to record detailed victim statements in cases of rape, sexual assault, or domestic violence.
Sample Policy 4: Officers shall not use a BWC or in-car camera system to record any of the following:

  1. An interview with a crime victim unless his or her express verbal or written consent has been obtained before the recording is made. Any recording obtained shall be consistent with the state attorney general's model protocol for response to adult sexual assault cases, the state attorney general's domestic violence protocol for law enforcement, the state attorney general's stalking protocol for law enforcement, and the state attorney general's child abuse and neglect protocol, as applicable. This paragraph shall not apply in cases where a parent or legal guardian is the subject of an investigation to which a juvenile is a victim or witness. In such cases, the juvenile may be interviewed without the express verbal or written consent of the parent or legal guardian under investigation.

Patients in Medical Care Facilities
Sample Policy 1: Officers shall use the BWC only while in the patient-care areas of a health care facility when the recording is for official purposes and care should be used to record only the parties involved in the event being investigated.
Sample Policy 2: Exceptions to required activation of the BWC:

  1. In patient-care areas of a medical facility, hospital, rape treatment center, or other health care facility where persons are receiving treatment unless an enforcement action such as a crime in progress, a criminal investigation, or anticipating an encounter with an uncooperative person is taking place in these areas.

Sample Policy 3: Body-worn cameras will not be used to record in a hospital or other patient setting during a medical or psychological evaluation by a medical practitioner or similar professional. If an individual is under arrest or detained for a psychological evaluation where the person is combative or presents a threat to the officer or public, the officer may activate a body-worn camera, but should be careful to avoid recording persons other than the suspect.
Exposed Individuals
Sample Policy 1: To respect the dignity of others, unless articulable exigent circumstances exist, officers will try to avoid recording videos of persons who are nude or when sensitive human areas are exposed. The BWC’s shall not be used to record areas where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, such as locker rooms, dressing rooms, or restrooms.
Sample Policy 2: In cases that are not deemed to be critical or dangerous, circumstances may dictate that an officer stop the recording for modesty/privacy concerns. If practical, and only when safety permits, an officer faced with such a situation may temporarily shield the video camera and continue to record only the audio portion of the incident/event. If an officer makes such a decision, he/she should verbally narrate the reason for temporarily shielding the camera. If officer safety does not permit such an action, the officer is not required to terminate the recording.

Does policy specify circumstances when recording is prohibited (e.g., locker room, supervisor/officer conversation, strip searches)?

Sample Policy 1:

  • Officers shall not use a body-worn camera (BWC) recording as a means to conduct a field show-up of a suspect.
  • BWCs shall be used only for legitimate law enforcement purposes in accordance with applicable law, departmental policy, and city personnel policy.
  • Officers will not record any court proceedings, pretrial conferences, or any other judicial proceedings, including those at the magistrate’s office.
  • The BWC will not be used to record fellow city employees, except during an investigation of a suspected violation of criminal, traffic, or local law.
  • Unless officers are present in an official capacity, their BWCs should not be used in bathrooms, locker rooms, or other places where there is an expectation of privacy.
  • For the purpose of protecting their identity, the BWC will not be used while interacting with known confidential informants or undercover officers. In situations where the recording of an interaction with an informant is of important evidentiary value, an officer may choose to capture audio recordings of the interaction by positioning the camera away from the informant.
  • Officers will not use the BWC to record personal activity.
  • Officers shall use the BWC only while in patient-care areas of a health care facility when the recording is for official purposes, and care should be used to record only the parties involved in the event being investigated.

Sample Policy 2: Prohibited recordings and deactivation: Except as otherwise required by this policy, no police officer shall use body-worn recording equipment to intentionally record

  1. a communication with other law enforcement agency personnel, except as the officer performs his or her duties;
  2. an encounter with an undercover officer or informant;
  3. when an officer is on break or is otherwise engaged in a personal activity;
  4. a person undergoing a medical or psychological evaluation, procedure, or treatment;
  5. any person other than a suspect to a crime if an officer is wearing his/her issued or approved body-worn camera in a hospital or other medical facility setting; or
  6. in a mental health facility, unless responding to a call involving a suspect to a crime who is thought to be present in the facility.
  7. any private conversation to which the officer is not a party; or
  8. any telephonic conversation unless specifically authorized by law while in the performance of their official duties.

Sample Policy 3: Officers ARE NOT permitted to intentionally record

  1. other agency personnel during routine, non–law enforcement–related activities;
  2. in restrooms or locker rooms, unless activation is required during the official performance of an officer’s duties;
  3. when speaking to a confidential informant;
  4. discussions that involve preplanned operational strategies or police tactics;
  5. inside a medical or mental health facility unless a use of force is anticipated or required;
  6. during any strip searches;
  7. any internal employee conversation unless all participants in the conversation are aware the recording is being made;
  8. inside the confinement area of the detention center (note: officers ARE permitted to record while in the sally port);
  9. during the execution of a search warrant where undercover officers are present;
  10. during First Amendment–protected activities if the activity is unrelated to a call for service, a specific threat, or an ongoing police investigation.