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The topic of body-worn cameras (BWCs) has resurfaced in Texas with the early February introduction of House Bill 1639, which would require implementation at TDCJ and sheriffs of each county jail. These cameras have been effective in law enforcement, but they have not typically been part of corrections. However, The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) is the only state-level juvenile justice agency in the country to fully implement them with direct-care staff. The results suggest their effectiveness at increasing safety and transparency. Police departments, for example, have relied on body-worn cameras (BWCs) to increase both the public's safety and accountability for officers. Controversy over high-profile use-of-force issues over the past fifteen years in varying jurisdictions made BWCs a standard piece of technology used by law-enforcement professionals. Though police regularly use BWCs, few local, state, and federal corrections agencies employ the same technology. It remains unclear if HB 1639 will eventually become law, but, notably, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) remains unmentioned because it represents the only state juvenile corrections organization in the nation already using BWCs.
“Controversy over high-profile use-of-force issues over the past fifteen years in varying jurisdictions made BWCs a standard piece of technology used by law-enforcement professionals”
TJJD Body-worn Cameras
Through the Office of the Governor's grant program, TJJD requested and received funding for BWC implementation beginning June 2018. Executive Director, Camille Cain, described the use of BWCs as having an immediate positive impact on agency operations in a 2018 letter to Governor Abbott; however, implementing a BWC program within corrections differs from police implementation. Police BWCs turn on when there is a call for service or a self-activation for citizen contact, meaning the data remains isolated to actual incidents. Contact with juveniles happens during the entire shift with most direct care staff, requiring more extensive data storage needs than police usage. Cloud storage requires careful planning when considering a provider for BWCs. Additionally, where each police officer uploads evidence to their cases, the process differs significantly, making authorized viewer access, video review and copying, video retention, and video oversight all programmatic requirements. BWC vendors created great tools for reviewing and monitoring video for police, but with differing metrics, each agency implementing the system must consider a monitoring program.
Program Implementation Model
The TJJD BWC program goals seek to heighten accountability and transparency, expecting reported incidents to have accompanying BWC footage for review. During a randomized observation of 812 direct care staff over five months, 93.8 percent of observations met or exceeded expectations. The other 6.1 percent were below expectations, and all observations provided valuable information for training adaptations. The TJJD BWC logic model, figure 1, identifies the relationships between the IT department, operations, facility superintendents, facility team leaders, direct care staff, and the Office of the inspector general (OIG). The model specifies the activities, outputs, and outcomes of BWC usage to obtain accountability and transparency goals. The external factors relevant to TJJD's BWC program are the Office of the Governor, the Texas legislature, TJJD's governing board, the youth, and parents. In Texas, the Governor's Office appoints the TJJD governing board, and Texas lawmakers provide funding and oversight of state organizations. As the only state-level juvenile corrections agency in the nation with an operational BWC program, TJJD can be proud of its new level of accountability and transparency, which was not previously available.