GPD improving body camera procedures

The Gainesville Police Department (GPD) has increased the number of body cameras by more than 200 percent and is improving the way it reviews video from those cameras, a police official told the city’s Audit and Finance Committee on Tuesday.

An audit of the GPD’s body-worn camera procedures found the department needed to improve its video review process, noting that some wearer’s videos were not being regularly reviewed by supervisors per the department’s policy.

The internal audit, conducted during the first seven months of 2021, was intended to assess the police department’s body camera policies and procedures, its compliance with state law and the effectiveness of its review program, said Gregory Robeson, an internal audit manager for the city.

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GPD logs an average of 10,000 videos from body cameras each month and has increased its number of cameras to more than 300 over the past year.

“I can’t state more than enough that they have done wonders over the last couple of years to get this up and rolling,” Robeson told the committee. “It’s a major, major implementation program.”

While the department’s policies and procedures met or exceeded state requirements, the audit identified three areas that needed improvement, including the additional reviewing of some body camera footage.

Police Chief Inspector Capt. Jamie Kurnick, who heads the GPD’s professional standards branch, said the internal audit period overlapped with the department increasing its number of body cameras from approximately 100 to 329 and switching from one video review system to another.

The initial set of approximately 100 body cameras were issued to patrol officers, and supervisors have reviewed that footage on a monthly basis since the body camera program launched in 2018, Kurnick said.

The “non-operational” employees whose video footage the audit found wasn’t being reviewed were from people in the department such as detectives, school resource officers and police service technicians who were given newly issued cameras, Kurnick said.

The employees and their supervisors were in the process of being trained on the new video management software as the audit was taking place, she said.

“It was going to take us a little longer than a few months to train all those individuals and train the supervisors how to do the reviews,” Kurnick said. “We are following the policy, and we are doing everything we possibly can at this point. So moving forward, I think we are in very good shape.”

During the first seven months of 2021, GPD personnel uploaded 72,214 separate videos. Per department policy, each body camera wearer, regardless of rank, will have two randomly selected videos reviewed each month.

“So every supervisor within our agency, including the chief [of police Tony Jones], if he wears his body-worn camera, needs to have his camera reviewed,” Kurnick said. “And we take pride in that.”

The department also reviews body camera video from incidents that involve the use of force or that involve an officer pointing a gun or a Taser at someone.

Additionally, the city audit identified a small subset of accounts with more administrative access than necessary to the video archives, including four former employee accounts that needed to be deactivated. And the GPD had four officers whose training documentation on body-camera procedures was missing.

Kurnick said the department has set up a system to regularly review access levels and to deactivate former employees’ accounts. The training department also is working on better procedures to ensure training documentation.

“I have full and utter faith that we are definitely on the right track,” Kurnick said. “Everyone having a body-worn camera is a very positive thing for transparency with the community. And honestly, for us, the next part of it is tracking, and we have been tracking these cameras and the supervisors’ reviews for a very long time.”

The audit report is being forwarded to the city commission, which is scheduled to accept the report as part of the consent agenda at its regular meeting Thursday.

In related news, the Alachua Police Department is the newest area agency that will get body cameras for its officers. The Alachua City Commission approved the purchase Monday night.

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