Thanks to a new state rule, footage captured from police body cameras could cost the public more than three times as much as it once did.
Last Friday, the Texas Secretary of State adopted that change, which will require the public to pay a fee to access body-camera footage to help agencies “cover the cost of reviewing and making the recording.” It goes into effect Thursday.
The rule allows a law enforcement agency to charge $10 for release of each body-camera recording, in addition to a $1-per-minute charge for each minute of video. That per-minute charge can be waived if the video was previously released.
The rule’s implementation stems from the 2015 legislative session, when Senate Bill 158 passed. A provision of the bill – authored by State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) and co-authored by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) – required the Texas Attorney General’s Office to set a proposed fee schedule for when the public obtains copies of body-camera evidence.
Kayleigh Lovvorn, spokeswoman for the attorney general, said that the new rule “provides that a requestor may not be charged” or at a reduced charge if “the agency determines the recording is in the public interest.”
The new fee schedule only applies to body-camera footage, not dash-cam footage or any other public information that the public may request from a police department.
No public comments were made regarding the rule’s implementation after its proposal in July.
Before it was proposed, departments set their costs for the release of body-camera footage, but most followed cost schedules for other types of records, $15 per hour. Under that schedule, an hour of body-cam video would equal 25 cents per minute, with a 20 percent overhead fee.
For an hour of footage, HPD charges $15 for the footage, $3 for overhead and $3 for the DVD, a total of $21.
Under the new fee schedule, HPD would charge a minimum of $70 – a dollar for every minute of footage and $10 for its release. That cost will quickly rise when multiple officers respond to a call.
Lovvorn didn’t respond to several questions about why the new fee schedule could triple the cost of releasing videos.
She also didn’t specify whether the fee was in addition to overhead that a police department normally charges for a records request or if the fee was in place of that overhead.