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Police Complaints Board Releases Report on D.C. Police Viewing Body-Worn Camera Footage On-Scene

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Report examines the issue with officers viewing footage on-scene; inconsistent with policy

WASHINGTON, DC – The District of Columbia Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today released a report to Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Peter Newsham addressing concerns with MPD officers viewing body-worn camera (BWC) footage at the scene of an incident.

OPC investigators have noticed in the course of their review of BWC footage for complaints that MPD officers are viewing the footage on-scene through the mobile app of the company that provides BWCs to MPD.  One example includes an MPD officer showing other MPD officers at the scene of an incident, footage of a community member’s behavior he found humorous. 

Another example shows an MPD officer telling another MPD officer that he was turning off his BWC to review the statements of a community member.  When it was turned back on, the BWC recorded the community member stating she knew the officer turned the camera off and wanted to know why.

MPD’s General Order 302.13: Body Worn Camera Program, Section IV.G states “The viewing of BWC recordings at the scene of an incident is prohibited.”  However, MPD officers have expressed different views on what is the “scene of an incident” to OPC investigators.  In addition, Section IV.L.18 of the General Order states that members “shall not view recordings for anything other than official law enforcement purposes.” 

To address concerns with MPD officers viewing BWC footage at the scene of an incident and its impact on community trust, the PCB recommends:

  • MPD should clarify for members the intention of General Order 302.13: Body Worn Camera Program, Section IV.G., which states, “The viewing of BWC recordings at the scene of an incident is prohibited.” MPD must ensure that members understand what “the scene of the incident” includes, and that members are aware that this section applies to them as well as the public.
  • MPD should remind all members of General Order 302.13: Body Worn Camera Program, Section IV.L.18 to ensure that BWC recordings are only used for official law enforcement purposes.

“Having a BWC program provides an opportunity for increased accountability within the police department,” said Michael G. Tobin, OPC’s executive director.  “Therefore, the policies and procedures that guide the program should be clear and consistent in order for this to happen and to improve community trust in the police.”\

To view the full report, visit www.policecomplaints.dc.gov/page/policy-recommendations.