All 210 school police officers could be wearing body cameras by next school year, according to plan from the Houston Independent School District.
“It brings transparency to the department and what we’re doing and how we’re doing,” said HISD Police Chief Robert Mock.
These body cameras will be worn by HISD police officers
“We consider these lapel cameras or body-worn tools an additional tool to ensure safety of our students,” he added.
Already 25 of his officers have started to wear the body cameras in a $10,000 pilot program and some of them said the cameras make them feel safer and more comfortable.
The HISD police department is just the latest law enforcement agency trying out body cameras, which are trending nationally as a new policing tool.
In some ways, the new pilot program for HISD officers isn’t dramatically new.
Already, there are about 13,000 security cameras on campuses and school buses in HISD, Mock said.
That’s one reason why Mock said that he isn’t worried about students’ privacy.
The department will follow federal rules for student’s records for the new cameras, just like it does for the existing ones.
“And so we deal with this type of release every day. We can’t release any pictures of, you know, faces of juveniles. So if we do release video, it will have to be redacted — the faces of the juveniles,” Mock explained.
But privacy is one of the main concerns about body cameras for police.
The bar is even higher for using them with students, said Melissa Hamilton, a former police officer and visiting criminal law scholar at the University of Houston Law Center.
“So it’s not necessarily a panacea. We just don’t know,” Hamilton said.
“But certainly what I do support is experiment and that’s what is going on now at various departments across the country, experimenting with cameras.”
Hamilton said the experiment could bring more transparency, but so far research on police body cameras is inconclusive.
Mock with HISD said he hopes federal grant money will pay for the rest of the body cameras.
Hoping to improve police relations with the public, President Barack Obama has proposed a $75 million package to purchase 50,000 body worn cameras.