Houston Police Department takes step to enhance accountability with new body camera feature

In a bid to increase transparency and accountability within the Houston Police Department, Police Chief Troy Finner announced on Thursday that the department will now activate a feature known as “Record After the Fact,” allowing retrieval of body-worn camera footage for a specific period when an officer is unable or neglects to activate the device.

This development follows public criticism after a December 17 officer-involved shooting failed to capture a crucial portion of the incident, raising concerns about accountability. Chief Finner addressed these concerns during a press conference, emphasizing the balance between officer safety and the need for comprehensive documentation.

“Most of our officers have done an extremely good job on capturing these incidents. However, it’s important that we safeguard our officers so that they can concentrate on making the scene safe, protecting the public, and also themselves,” Finner stated.

“We expect all officers to activate their cameras before taking law enforcement actions, but there are times, again, it’s not possible. Officers should not be more concerned about whether they capture an incident on the video then again protecting themselves or the general public.” Finner added.

Implementation of the Record After the Fact feature began on December 21, 2023, after extensive discussions with the police union and officers across the department. Finner noted that officers’ body-worn cameras are now operating on standby mode.

Finner went on to provide additional technical details about the operational modes of the body cameras: “Just to clarify things. There are three modes, and if it gets more technical than that, I’m going to bring my expert up. The active mode, which is the body-worn camera is actively recording an event. A standby mode is powered up, your camera, but it’s not actively recording. The final mode is off mode, which is self-explanatory. Everything is off on it.” Finner said.”

Privacy concerns are being actively addressed, with ongoing policy discussions, particularly regarding situations like being in a restroom.

Acknowledging the imperfections of the system, Finner remarked, “Even as we move and we’re always looking at the critical ways that we can be better at capturing footage on critical incidents, it’s not perfect. There’s still probably going to be incidents where we don’t capture. But by introducing this Record After the Fact, it’s certainly going to increase the likelihood that we capture what we need.”

The change follows the December 17 incident involving the shooting of Kevin Lyn Mitchell. Officer D. Reinhold failed to activate his body camera during the crucial moments of the encounter, prompting an internal affairs investigation. The incident, which began with a report of a robbery, escalated into a physical altercation between Reinhold and Mitchell, culminating in the officer shooting Mitchell.

The absence of recorded footage capturing the events preceding the shooting stirred public outcry and demands for heightened accountability.

Officer Reinhold remains on active duty pending the outcome of the investigation.

Chief Finner refused to comment on the ongoing investigation but stressed the department’s commitment to enhancing accountability.

The Houston Police Department, which started deploying body-worn cameras in 2015, captured nearly 2.7 million videos in 2023, documenting various interactions with the public. The department’s commitment, made in March 2021, to release critical incident videos within 30 days has resulted in the release of 83 such videos.

About the Author

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team in 2019. When she’s not hard at work in the KPRC 2 newsroom, you can find Bri drinking away her hard earned wages at JuiceLand, running around Hermann Park, listening to crime podcasts or ransacking the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble.

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