In Car Video

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This directive is for internal use only and does not enlarge an employee’s civil liability in any way. The directive should not be construed as creating a higher duty of care, in an evidentiary sense, with respect to third party civil claims against employees. Violations of this directive, if proven, can only form the basis of a complaint by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office for non-judicial administrative action in accordance with the rules and laws governing employee discipline.
APPROVED BY: Sheriff Ken Christesen EFFECTIVE DATE: 9/28/2014
NMLEA STANDARDS: Not Applicable LAST MODIFIED: 5/17/2017 LAST REVIEW: 5/17/2017


The purpose of this policy is to establish written guidelines governing the use, storage, and retrieval of audio-visual recordings by in-car video systems. The use of in-car video systems can provide personnel with an invaluable instrument to enhance criminal prosecution by providing powerful evidence of criminal activity, limit civil liabilities, objectively document deputy and citizen conduct during individual interactions, and aid in law enforcement training.


It is the policy of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office to utilize in-car video systems in select vehicles to collect audio/visual recordings of law enforcement contacts. Personnel assigned to a vehicle equipped with an in-car video system will use it pursuant to this policy.


The following definitions will apply for the purpose of this policy:

  • In-Car Video System – A Sheriff’s Office approved in-car video recording system consisting of a front and rear (when equipped) camera assembly, wireless microphone, digital video recorder, GPS antenna, microphone antenna, and transmitter antenna.

  • Work Order – The current system in place at the Sheriff’s Office for requesting technical or repair assistance.

  • Unauthorized Personnel – Any person or employee not directly connected to the Sheriff’s Office IT Department or specifically authorized by the Sheriff’s Office to perform repair and/or maintenance work to the in-car video systems.



Activation of the in-car video system occurs either automatically by pre-set triggers or manually by the user. Pre-set triggers include activation of the overhead emergency lights, excessive speed, and collision detection. Manual activation can occur via a wireless transmitter worn by the user or from inside the vehicle.

If automatic activation does not occur, manual activation of the in-car video system is required for, but not limited to, the following incidents:

  • All traffic stops;
  • All investigative citizen contacts including civil standbys;
  • All emergency responses in which the vehicle’s emergency lights are activated;
  • All motor vehicle pursuits;
  • All crimes in progress and/or;
  • All prisoner and citizen transports (rear camera activation required when equipped).

Incidents requiring video activation will be recorded in their entirety.

Personnel should activate their in-car video for any situation not previously listed that they deem necessary or appropriate.

For any incident requiring recording, video activation by all personnel on scene should occur regardless of arrival order on scene or number of personnel already on scene.


The safety of citizens and Sheriff’s Office personnel is the primary consideration for operating the system and placement of the system components within the vehicle. At no time does the need to capture quality video outweigh citizen and deputy safety.

The Sheriff’s Office in-car video system records and temporarily stores events onto a digital storage medium. Recorded material is then wirelessly uploaded from the vehicle to the system server at designated geographical locations.

Once uploaded to the server, videos may be viewed via a networked Sheriff’s Office computer. Personnel are limited to viewing only their own videos unless assigned to a video technician position or permission has been received from another user to view their in-car recording(s). Supervisors and investigative personnel may view another’s video for official purposes without permission. Password sharing to access videos is strictly prohibited as this would constitute a violation of the Sheriff’s Office Information Technology Security Policy.

Prior to the start of each shift, personnel issued in-car video systems will perform a pre-operational inspection of the system to ensure the video camera and wireless microphone are operational and functioning properly. This inspection will include a test recording that should be cataloged as such. If a system malfunction is detected, the malfunction reporting procedures outlined in this policy will be immediately followed.

Personnel utilizing spare vehicles equipped with an in-car video system are required to log into the system with their name as a video identifier prior to utilizing the video system.

To aid in the usability of in-car video/audio recordings, personnel should attempt to provide conditions most conducive to quality recording. Such conditions would include, but are not limited to, placement of the vehicle and camera in relation to the incident being recorded, proper wearing of the wireless microphone, use of the camera’s light amplification settings, etc.

Personnel should ensure non-police related electronic devices within the police vehicle (music radios, CD players, etc.) are turned off when the in-car video system is activated. This does not apply to police radios. Other noise such as wind or road noise from an open window should also be limited if possible.

To maximize the benefits of in-car video usage, personnel are encouraged to:

  • When feasible, use the audio portion of the recording to narrate events as they occur when their actions and/or the actions of subjects take place out of camera view.
  • Review their in-car video/audio recordings when preparing written documentation of events or preparing for court in order to ensure the accuracy and consistency of events.

Wireless microphones must be worn by personnel issued in-car video systems and should not be turned off unless required for officer or citizen safety or case security.

During the recording of an incident, personnel will not disengage the in-car video system until the entire incident, or the portion the user is involved in, has been recorded. Justification will be required for any early disengagement of the in-car video system.


After an incident is recorded on the in-car video system, the type of incident must be manually cataloged by the user. The cataloging of in-car camera recordings is necessary to efficiently locate a video for future use (within 90 days) and/or preservation.

The categories of incidents for cataloging purposes are as follows:

  • Arrest – Used any time an arrest is made during the incident even if the recording employee did not personally make the arrest.
  • No Arrest – Used for routine incidents where no arrest occurred.
  • Special Request – Used for any incident that the employee feels a recording could be beneficial at a later date (e.g., potential citizen complaint, unusual contact, etc.).
  • Test Recording – Used for test videos created during the pre-operational inspection of the video system (only held on the server for seven days).

During cataloging, personnel may receive prompts for additional information such as a case number. If present, these additional information fields are required for all videos. The two letter designation “NA” may be used if the field does not apply. For example, a routine citizen contact that does not generate a case report would not require the case number be added to the video.

Personnel may not skip the cataloging of a video. If not automatically prompted, the video system must immediately be considered as malfunctioning and turned in for repair as outlined in this policy. Furthermore, due to the importance of cataloging, personnel must notate on the work order which video(s) did not get cataloged so this can be corrected by the IT Department.


Once wirelessly uploaded to the server, in-car video/audio recordings are held for 90 days. After this 90 day period, if a video request has not been made, the recording is purged and permanently unavailable. To preserve a recording for longer, a video preservation request must be made before the 90 day expiration. The Sheriff’s Office will ensure that a simple-to-use video preservation request system is in place and accessible by all personnel assigned in-car video systems. Once a video preservation request has been made, the retrieval, storage, and retention of this video will be handled by the Sheriff’s Office Evidence Division who will follow applicable records retention regulations.

Anytime an arrest is made, or deputies are involved in a major/felony crime investigation regardless of arrest status, the primary deputy will submit a video preservation request for all related videos.

Deputies engaged in use of force incidents, pursuits, or other high profile situations will submit a video preservation request for all related videos. The supervisor reviewing the incident will then request a hard copy of the incident for the review file.

Original recordings are kept and maintained by the Sheriff’s Office Evidence Division. Personnel in need of a physical copy of an in-car video/audio recording for a court proceeding or other investigative reason should contact the Evidence Custodian directly. Due to preparation times of creating copies, a 24 hour notice is preferred. It is the responsibility of the employee who receives the copy of the video/audio recording to ensure it is permanently destroyed when he or she is finished with its use.

A benefit of in-car recordings comes in the form of personnel training. Recordings should not be used for training purposes without the permission of the involved employee(s). This does not apply to former employees.

All outside requests (attorneys, media, etc.) for recorded Sheriff’s Office material will be forwarded to the Evidence Custodian in charge of fulfilling such requests.


Any malfunctions of the in-car video system will be reported to the employee’s immediate supervisor as soon as possible after discovery. The supervisor will then coordinate the prompt issuance of a spare vehicle with a functioning video system. A work order will be submitted to the Sheriff’s Office IT Department who will be responsible for facilitating all repairs.

Personnel will notify a supervisor in the event an incident is handled while in possession of a malfunctioning/inoperable in-car video system. The supervisor will ensure the incident details (date, time, case number, and case type) are included in the repair work order to the IT Department.


To maintain recording quality, professionalism, and evidential integrity of the in-car video system, the following acts are prohibited by unauthorized personnel:

  • Intentionally or neglectfully not utilizing the in-car video system as outlined in this policy.
  • Altering the resolution quality of the in-car video system.
  • Sharing or viewing recordings in an unprofessional or non-work related setting.
  • Utilizing recordings for personal profit or gain.
  • Copying recordings for personal use.
  • Removing or attempting to remove the digital storage medium.
  • Producing or attempting to produce recordings of a non-professional manner.
  • Manually downloading or obtaining recordings directly from the camera system.
  • Erasing, altering, modifying, tampering, or attempt to erase, alter, modify, or tamper with any digital recording or digital recording equipment.

Violating any of the aforementioned acts may result in disciplinary action.

Personnel encountering technical difficulties with their in-car video system will submit a work order to the IT Department. Regardless of prior experience and/or training, unauthorized personnel will not attempt to repair or fix the in-car video system themselves.



The primary responsibility of the in-car video system program lies with the Administrative Captain. The evidentiary aspects of the program shall be managed by the Evidence Custodian under the direction of the Property and Evidence Manager. Technical aspects to include hardware, end-user software, and server selection shall be maintained by the IT Department.


All Sheriff’s Office personnel assigned to a vehicle equipped with an in-car video system will be trained on the correct operation and demonstrate proficiency of the specific system issued and the details of this policy prior to use.


  1. SJCSO Policy OPER-331 “Password Policy”