The future and the past

Again, the HPOU was front and center in the elections of the Mayor and City Council.  All but three of those we endorsed were winners.  The three that we did not support are prior friends of the HPOU and understood why they were not selected and will continue to be good friends of the organization in the future.  In fact, we have already met with them and had a very good conversation and look forward to working with them.

It was a great day for Houston when former Senator, now Mayor Whitmire was elected by a large margin to run this city.  We look forward to working with him over the next four to eight years to improve the department, and the city. We all know that there are issues within the department including the recruiting and retention of good officers.  I look forward to working together with the mayor and council to make this department a better and more enjoyable place to work, like it was when I came on 33 years ago. Yes, before most of you were born!

The next issue for discussion is the new body worn camera policy. I can talk about it for days on end, but no one will believe it because of our past.  The department has stated many times that the AVL was only for officer safety, until it was not, and an officer was disciplined. Do not worry, you will not get disciplined for cursing on camera as long as you are not cursing out grandma, until an officer was disciplined.  Don’t worry we will not go back and look at your last eight hours, until they do. That is the problem that many see with the “record after the fact”.  Everyone is afraid that the department will say one thing and then later say, well we had to go and look.  The department has used things that were for “our safety” to burn us in the past.  This is why everyone is so fearful of the body camera policy of recording after the fact.

While it is true that it continuously records in the background, there are parameters that must be met before a video can be viewed.  An officer must create an event, which means there is a start and stop time which according to the policy, will be dictated by the time on the call slip and code for that call.  A code two would start at enroute time, while a code three is upon arrival time.  Outside of that, no supervisor or officers will be permitted to create or view an officer’s body camera video unless it was created out of an event.  No supervisor or officer can go into the system and create an event of another camera without that officer asking for assistance in creating the event.  This prevents people from looking at the video on the camera because only created events can be seen. The Chief has also put in the policy several protections that we have asked for, including discipline for ANYONE misusing the system to discipline others to be at least a category D with a possible demotion.  We also now have in the new policy that ANY discipline observed on body camera video moving forward should be handled with the least intrusive discipline possible to correct the behavior.  I hope our Sergeants pay attention to that clause.

If this works like designed it is a very positive program for our officers, and we should never have to worry about late activations again.  We should also not have to worry about discipline for late activation. The group that worked on this policy were all from patrol and CST teams and believe that this will be a better system that will protect our officers. The two-minute buffer is now gone and only when activated can an event be created.  It is important to note that this policy not completed by a group of admin staff or executive command, but by boots on the ground.  As an organization the HPOU will continue to monitor the policy and the department on the use of this program.

This is one where we look forward to a great future and hope that we do not repeat the past!

Published January 12, 2024

Author Doug Griffith, HPOU President