University of Utah Police to Implement Body-Worn Cameras

The University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, has announced that its campus police will now use body-worn cameras. According to a news release, the purpose of the body cameras is to “promote accountability; increase public trust; provide supportive documentation for complaints, investigations and prosecutions; and improve training opportunities.”

“We want to be transparent in all our dealings with the community on campus, and the body-worn cameras are going to be a major part of that,” said Jason Hinojosa, the University of Utah Police’s acting chief. “Whenever there is an interaction—such as a traffic stop, dealing with suspects or talking with a pedestrian in response to a crime—then a camera would be used.”

The university’s guidelines for use of the body cameras comply with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) standards. The university is currently taking steps to get accredited by CALEA, and also by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA).

The use of body cameras has recently become industry standard for policework, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The news release cites a study that when body cameras were introduced into the Rialto Police Department in California, use-of-force incidents dropped by 60%, and complaints against officers dropped by 88%.

An interim rule, R1-011A, offers guidelines for use of body cameras not covered by policy 3-234, which dictates standards for building access and fixed surveillance cameras. The interim rule went into effect on July 16. “A new rule was required because the body-worn cameras can record audio, which is specifically not permitted under policy 3-234,” said professor Leslie Francis, Surveillance System Administrator Committee member. “Additionally, these new cameras will be used for law enforcement purposes and are except from Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) laws.”

Acting Chief Hinojosa also addressed issues of privacy and data security. All footage is stored on the website, and officers can only watch their own videos. The software does not allow them to edit or delete footage. Footage may only be shared if requested through the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) and approved by the university’s Office of General Council.

“We want to clarify that officers will not be recording citizen contacts, such as special events or a community outreach activity,” said Hinojosa. “Body-worn cameras will be utilized primarily to document incident responses, and recordings will be stored in a secured, cloud-based system. Only the officer who recorded the footage and their supervisors will be able to view the recordings, and a record of all viewings will be kept.”

Further information about the university’s body-worn camera policies, as well as a list of Frequently Asked Questions, is available on the University of Utah website.