Fort Bend County commissioners May 25 approved the new policy, which was created to serve as a uniform guideline for the different law enforcement agencies in the county to follow.
The goal for the policy, county officials said, is to address the needs of law enforcement officials in Fort Bend County and the concerns of the residents they police by having clear guidelines regarding body-worn cameras. Ultimately, the policy is meant to improve officer safety, public transparency and accountability.
A committee was formed in October to help craft the countywide policy after commissioners noted how the county’s different law enforcement agencies had their own policies that were similar but had differences.
“We need a uniform policy,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage said at the time.
According to the new policy, which was unanimously supported by the court, body cameras must be activated and recording during all law enforcement activities, such as when being dispatched or prior to exiting his or her vehicle when responding to any call for service. The camera must remain activated and recording until the activity is completed or a reason to deactivate the camera is present, such as when all arrests have been made and arrestees have been transported and released from the officer’s immediate custody.
Unjustified deactivation of a camera may be subject to review and may result in disciplinary action, which may include indefinite suspension.
The policy applies to all Fort Bend County law enforcement officers, excluding undercover officers, that receive funding for body-worn cameras from the county. However, elected officials who manage the respective law enforcement agencies can choose to accept or decline the policy, county officials said.
Fort Bend County Sheriff Eric Fagan said he supported the policy but said his office will continue to follow the policy that he created.
“The policy that I’ve written is more stringent,” he said.