Houston PD Changing Policy on Release of Surveillance Videos Collected by Body Cameras

The decision comes after video was released following one officer’s fatal shooting of a 26-year-old male.

HOUSTON — A string of high profile cases involving police force on civilians has the Houston Police Department (HPD) left trying to figure out when and when not to release videos collected by newly-attained body cameras.

Police Chief Charles A. McClelland told the Houston Chronicle on Thursday that he will not hold the release of a video in “anticipation of civil litigation.”

“If we have a body camera video that’s an officer-involved shooting or complaint against one of our officers, if we have completed the administrative investigation, which looks for policy and procedure and training violations, and we have completed the criminal investigation … I’m going to release it,” McClelland said.

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Police Chief Charles A. McClelland said the HPD is changing its policy on when to release the footage and will still seek the guidance of the Office of the Attorney General about when to release a video of a controversial case, especially when an officer is not indicted by a grand jury.

McClelland said the department still needs “some clarity” in those instances because he said the law only allows for the release of videos after a shooting has been fully adjudicated.

The change in policy comes after McClelland and Houston Mayor Annise Parker made the decision to release surveillance footage of an interaction between Jordan Baker, a 26-year-old African American male, and a police officer that led to the fatal shooting of Baker.

The officer, Juventino Castro, was cleared by a grand jury of any criminal wrongdoing and the HPD denied the request of Baker’s family and community activists seeking the release of the video. The HPD had withheld the video because of potential litigation but Parker ordered the video to be released in order to be transparent.

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