Skip Navigation
Resource

Police Body Camera Policies: Security

BWCs can only provide valuable evidence if the policies ensure that evidence cannot be tampered with; and privacy protections are meaningless in the absence of security. While we are not in a position to evaluate the security of the electronic systems involved, we do note in this chart if viewing of the video is logged, if it requires an allowed purpose, and if permission is required to make a copy of the video.

Published: August 3, 2016

Last Updated: July 19, 2019

There are many factors that go into data secur­ity, most of which are tech­nical matters outside of the scope of depart­mental policies. However, some depart­ments have laid out proced­ures to prevent officers from tamper­ing with or improp­erly releas­ing video.

“Does view­ing require allowed purpose?” “Is view­ing logged?” and “Is permis­sion required to copy video?”: The ques­tion of who is allowed to watch the videos is not limited to the issue of public access. The history of dash­board cameras in police cars includes instances of videos being watched and distrib­uted by police officers as enter­tain­ment. A system that limits when a video can be viewed or copied, and logs any activ­ity with a user­name, can help prevent such abuses. We have noted the circum­stances under which an officer can view the video, whether view­ing is logged, and whether permis­sion is required to copy it.

Down­load the PDF here—re­com­men­ded for mobile users.

View our map and other charts.

City or Org Does View­ing Require Allowed Purpose? Is View­ing Logged? Is Permis­sion Required to Copy Video?
Arling­ton, TX Not allowed to access record­ings without proper approval. View­ing allowed to randomly review foot­age to ensure the system is work­ing, identify areas in which addi­tional train­ing might be required, and if an officer involved in an incid­ent is required to make a state­ment about said incid­ent.  Not specified Yes, prior approval of Police Chief or their designee is required.
Atlanta Officers are permit­ted to access and review their own BWC foot­age stored on their BWC or the uploaded foot­age on the stor­age network, except for all use of force incid­ents. Yes Cannot share or provide video copies with any members of the public. 

 

Austin

 

View­ing allowed to ensure the system is work­ing; to write a report, review evid­ence, or invest­ig­ate an act of employee conduct; or as part of an offi­cial invest­ig­a­tion. Not specified “Employ­ees shall not make personal copies” of BWC foot­age.

Baltimore

Super­visors can view to monitor indi­vidual perform­ance, train­ing, invest­ig­a­tions and advan­cing the best interest of the public. Members of OPR and CAPD can view. Every­one else must get author­iz­a­tion from the BWC Coordin­ator and must be for law enforce­ment purposes.  Yes Super­visors and members of OPR and CAPD can copy videos. All other access to video must be author­ized by the BWC Coordin­ator.

Boston

View­ing allowed for complet­ing an invest­ig­a­tion, prepar­ing offi­cial reports, prepar­ing for court and provid­ing a state­ment. Non-BWC officers can view foot­age if their request is approved by the Commander of the Video Evid­ence Unit. Yes “Depart­ment person­nel shall not copy or other­wise repro­duce any BWC record­ing/foot­age (includ­ing using an iPhone, iPad, or other elec­tronic or other device).”
Char­lotte, NC View­ing allowed only for “approved depart­mental purposes” such as writ­ing reports and audit­ing system. Sworn employ­ees can review their BWC video when complet­ing state­ments for invest­ig­a­tions, incid­ent reports and prepar­ing for court testi­mony. Yes Sworn employ­ees prohib­ited from making copies. Excep­tions: the court liaison unit can make copies for the district attor­ney or court, the homicide unit can copy for invest­ig­a­tions with permis­sion from sergeant., in-service train­ing unit can copy for use in train­ing purposes, and BWC compli­ance, policy admin­is­trator and agency system admin­is­trator can create release copies as direc­ted by the court.

Chicago

No restric­tions if view­ing own video Yes Yes
Cincin­nati “Officers may view BWC foot­age at the district util­iz­ing vendor-approved soft­ware and equip­ment or on any computer with inter­net capab­il­ity. View­ing of BWC foot­age is for offi­cial use only.” Yes Yes
Clev­e­land Yes, officers can only review videos for law enforce­ment purposes and there are limits on view­ing record­ings of use of force incid­ents. Yes Yes
Dallas Access­ing record­ings without proper approval is prohib­ited, but no details on when or why approval is gran­ted. Not specified Copies for train­ing can be used with permis­sion of Train­ing Divi­sion Commander. Hard copies only used for crim­inal evid­ence, internal affairs divi­sion requests, Public Inform­a­tion Act requests and approvals by Divi­sion Command­ers.

Denver

Officers able to review their own BWC record­ings for accur­ate state­ments and when prepar­ing writ­ten docu­ment­a­tion. Officers can only review record­ings from their own BWCs. Excep­tions: When officers are involved in or witness to crit­ical incid­ents or force incid­ents they must wait for author­iz­a­tion. Yes Yes. Lead invest­ig­at­ors can make a single copy to attach to a case file and evid­ence may be shared with the District and City Attor­ney’s Offices upon writ­ten request. Other copies require writ­ten permis­sion from the Chief of Police.
Ferguson Officers can view their own foot­age, along with Depart­ment-author­ized users. Not specified Copy­ing video is strictly prohib­ited unless required by law or the BWC policy.
Jack­son­ville “Officers shall be allowed to review only their own BWC record­ings when not other­wise prohib­ited, upon his own initi­at­ive or request…” and all others must receive writ­ten approval from BWC System Admin­is­trator or their designee before view­ing foot­age. Yes Officers are prohib­ited from making copies of videos – need writ­ten approval from the Sher­iff or designee.

Las Vegas

View­ing allowed for conduct­ing invest­ig­a­tions, complet­ing reports, prior to testi­mony, and provid­ing a state­ment in internal invest­ig­a­tions. Yes Sher­iff or designee must give permis­sion in writ­ing.
Los Angeles No, officers are required to review BWV record­ings on their devices prior to docu­ment­ing incid­ents, arrests, inter­views etc. Not specified “Officers shall not copy… record­ings except as author­ized by law or Depart­ment policy.”

Mesa, AZ

Record­ings should only be accessed for “offi­cial law enforce­ment purposes.” Officers can review foot­age for invest­ig­a­tions, comple­tion of reports, train­ing and prior to making state­ments. Cannot review foot­age of incid­ents result­ing in death/seri­ous injury without approval of Homicide Unit Sergeant or designee. Not specified Record­ings should only be copied for “offi­cial law enforce­ment purposes.” No permis­sion process is specified.

Minneapolis

Officers can view video for any specified law enforce­ment purpose, as author­ized by the Commander of the Tech­no­logy and Support Services Divi­sion.  Yes Officers and outside agen­cies must submit request to the Records Inform­a­tion Unit for a copy. 
New Orleans View­ing is prohib­ited other than for “offi­cial law enforce­ment purposes.” Not specified Not specified, though copy­ing is prohib­ited other than for “offi­cial law enforce­ment purposes.”

New York  

 No restric­tions on officer view­ing own video. Officers may view others’ videos “in further­ance of an invest­ig­a­tion, prepar­a­tion of a case or other offi­cial purpose.”  Yes Not specified, though copy­ing is prohib­ited except for “offi­cial purposes.”
Oakland, CA Officers can view their own record­ings and super­visors can view officer record­ings unless prohib­ited by policy. Not specified if logged by system, but person­nel shall docu­ment reason for access. No. Author­ized person­nel can make copies but must docu­ment the reason.
Orlando Yes. View­ing is prohib­ited other than for “offi­cial law enforce­ment purposes.” Yes Not specified, though copy­ing is prohib­ited other than for “offi­cial law enforce­ment purposes.”
Phil­adelphia Yes, officers may access their own BWC foot­age for “report writ­ing, court prepar­a­tions, and/or train­ing purposes.” Yes Yes, permis­sion is required from the Digital Evid­ence Custodian, who manages and main­tains all media and record­ings from BWCs.

Phoenix, AZ

No restric­tions on officer view­ing own video or subor­din­ate’s video.  Not specified Copy­ing record­ings without the approval of the Police Chief or his designee is prohib­ited, but no permis­sion process is specified.
Rialto, CA Once uploaded, “person­nel may view their own audio/video data.” In addi­tion, “an employee” (which employee/s not specified) may view files for crim­inal invest­ig­a­tions & reports, before testi­mony, or before provid­ing a state­ment pursu­ant to an admin­is­trat­ive inquiry. Yes Permis­sion required from the Chief of Police.
San Anto­nio Officers can view their own record­ings and detect­ive-invest­ig­at­ors and above have access to all record­ings. View­ing is restric­ted for offi­cial use only, which includes crim­inal invest­ig­a­tions; internal affairs; pursuits; use of force reviews; open record requests; officer involved crashes; or other reas­ons. Yes Yes, copies must be reques­ted through the Video Evid­ence Custodian or their designee.
San Bern­ardino Officers may review their own record­ings for law enforce­ment purposes. Yes Not specified but digital evid­ence can only be copied by author­ized person­nel. Digital evid­ence is handled pursu­ant to state law and depart­ment policies and proced­ures.
San Diego No restric­tions on view­ing own video. For general view­ing, there is a list of accept­able admin­is­trat­ive purposes. Yes Unau­thor­ized copy­ing is prohib­ited, but no permis­sion process is specified. Digital evid­ence handled as invest­ig­at­ive record and handled pursu­ant to state law and the depart­ment policies and proced­ures.
San Fran­cisco Officers may view BWC foot­age for any “legit­im­ate law enforce­ment purpose.” Yes Yes, “the officer-in-charge or command­ing officer of the invest­ig­at­ive unit assigned the incid­ent recor­ded by the BWC, or the command­ing officer of the Risk Manage­ment Office, shall have the author­ity to permit the duplic­a­tion and distri­bu­tion of the BWC files.”

San Jose

View­ing allowed for crim­inal invest­ig­a­tions, prepar­ing reports or testi­mony, train­ing, and prepar­a­tion of an Internal Affairs inter­view. Other reas­ons require permis­sion of the Chief of Police. Yes Unau­thor­ized copy­ing is prohib­ited, but no permis­sion process is specified.

Seattle

View­ing allowed for complaints, invest­ig­a­tions, FOIA requests, perform­ance appraisal, audits, and other listed purposes. Only excep­tion is they cannot view their own videos during FIT invest­ig­a­tions. Yes Not specified but officers shall not make copies of foot­age for personal use.
Tampa Officers required to view their foot­age before writ­ing reports. Does not specify any view­ing restric­tions. Yes Chief of Police must give permis­sion.
Tucson View­ing allowed for invest­ig­a­tions, reports, and prepar­a­tion for hear­ings, depos­itions, and trials. Not specified No permis­sion required for listed purposes; other copy­ing requires super­visor approval from a commander or above.
Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “[M]embers shall not view record­ings for anything other than offi­cial law enforce­ment purposes.” Yes An offi­cial must give permis­sion in writ­ing.
ACLU Model Stat­ute Not specified Not specified Not specified
Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­ation of Chiefs of Police  Not specified Not specified Writ­ten approval required.
Police Exec­ut­ive Research Forum  Yes Yes Not specified