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Board to Consider Body Cam Language

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Board to Consider Body Cam Language
Posted on 10/24/2019
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City patrol officers – including school resource officers (SROs) – are now equipped with body cameras. As a result, the Portland Board of Public Education is slated to consider revising an existing agreement it has with the Police Department about the SRO program to spell out how cameras can and cannot be used in schools.

At its business meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 29, the Board will have a first reading of proposed revisions to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) it has with Police Department concerning the SRO program, and then hold a workshop on the issue. The Board’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Casco Bay High School in room 200.

The MOU between the Portland Public Schools and the Police Department was made about five years ago to formalize the SRO program at Deering and Portland high schools. The purpose of the MOU is to ensure the program builds a positive relationship between law enforcement, students, school administration and staff. The agreement typically has been renewed automatically at the start of each school year.

However, after years of planning, Portland police recently purchased enough equipment to outfit all its patrol officers with body cameras, and the Board will be considering revisions to the MOU that are needed to implement the use of body cameras in district schools.

The Police Department already has a policy in place spelling out such provisions as when a body worn camera (BWC) should be turned on and off and who can have access to the footage. When it comes to schools, that policy says:

a. While on the grounds of any public, private, or parochial elementary or secondary school, responding officers and School Resource Officers (SROs) shall only activate their BWC in cases of suspected criminal activity or when assisting school personnel with matters that may result in disorderly or otherwise disruptive behavior in the school environment.

b. Officers (including SROs) shall inform the subjects involved they are being video and audio recorded as soon as it is practical and safe to do so.

c. SROs will not activate their BWC when present during meetings between students and school personnel that are of an administrative nature and do not involve suspected criminal activity or the potential for disruptive behavior.

The language the Board will consider adding to the MOU is almost identical to the wording of the police policy but also includes such additions as: The SROs will not record in places where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, such as locker rooms or restrooms, unless the activation is required for the performance of official duties, as described [in section a] above. 

When it comes to access to any recordings made, the proposed language in the revised MOU would state: Recordings shall not be routinely or randomly viewed by school officials and/or personnel. Upon request made by the Superintendent, recordings will be made available to by school officials for use in their investigation of student, employee or other matters in which the recordings may provide relevant evidence. The parent or legal guardian of a minor subject of a BWC recording may request to schedule a time to view a BWC recording at the PPD or the school where the recording occurred.

The Board’s workshop will follow the adjournment of the business meeting.