Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Body Camera FIASCO illustrates #ATXCharter reform necessity....

"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

We've been intermittently watching the APD body camera process; we concur with this statement from TAG in its entirety:
Austin's Public Safety Commission addressed transparency and privacy issues on Tuesday.
APD Body Camera Policy development is a corrupt process.

Last night, the Public Safety Commission discussed the APD Body Camera policyand asked our coalition partner, Matt Simpson of the ACLU, to testify.  Below is the email sent to each of the members of the Public Safety Commission.

For more information on the continuing conversation around body cameras in Austin, check out the Austin Body Cameras website.
To the members of the Public Safety Commission,

I wanted to share my experience as a stakeholder participating in the discussions with APD and other community stakeholders to develop a policy on the Austin Police Department Body Camera Policy.

I am currently on the Steering Committee for Texans for Accountable Government.  TAG believes 
"that power should be rested in the nearest locality.  Our local representatives are much more accountable to us than are those over a thousand miles away in the District of Columbia." -- TAG website.  
But that accountability only happens when members of the community get involved.

It's clear from the most recent draft of the APD Body Camera Policy that APD does not want accountability. The city council, by approving the TASER contract at the June 23 meeting, gave a stamp of approval for a corrupt process.

Here's what should be the process: APD comes to the city council-- our elected and therefore accountable representatives-- with a request to adopt body cameras.  The community stakeholders and APD come together to develop a policy to determine how the cameras will be used and how the footage will be released.  From the policy, the stakeholders and APD agree on a list of hardware and software specifications for the RFP.

What happened instead is that the city council had no framework for determining whether or not $17 million was a reasonable price to pay for what TASER was offering.

Now we are supposed to craft a policy after the equipment has been purchased.  It is clear from the most recent draft and from comments made during our meetings that APD is free to ignore our requests for drafting the policy.  They haven't blatantly ignored us, but the language in the most recent draft does present a very different tone than what we discussed in our meetings.

I ask that the Public Safety Commission keep a close eye on the process for APD to adopt new technology.  I'm sure Matt Simpson of the ACLU laid out the concerns from the community stakeholders-- our elected and appointed officials must insist on due diligence from city employees so that we are not ignored.

Thank you,
Carly Rose Jackson
Steering Committee, Texans for Accountable Government
Bottom Line: It's bad enough that council (with the notable exception of Don Zimmerman) abdicated what little oversight they had over this process; it's even worse that both the contract and the policy were developed in the bowels of the bureaucracy in the first place.

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