Fort Worth

Irving Police to Buy Body Cameras for School Officers

The Irving Police Department is about to buy dozens of cameras for its school resource officers, who patrol campuses and investigate crimes and disturbances.

Four months ago, Irving police bought 200 body cameras, enough for every patrol officer on a shift. But police say it's important to add cameras for its specialty units — like SWAT and its 18 SROs.

The new order of 42 cameras will arrive in about a month, according to Officer James McLellan.

School resource officers are sworn police officers, and the body cameras must be turned-on for any active call or investigation. In a school setting, most or all of the video captured and uploaded to the department's servers will be of minors.

Police said the release of body camera video is heavily regulated and any requests to release footage containing children is "heavily regulated."

"The request would go through first our Department lawyers, and then it's subject to an Attorney General review," McLellan said. "So we take those privacy concerns seriously. The release of any video is subject to quite strict Open Records Laws."

SROs often respond to things like thefts, vandalism, assaults and illegal possession of weapons and drugs. Police said those crimes should be investigated seriously and that body cameras are an important investigative tool.

"The SROs are still sworn police officers and they’re in a position to enforce the law. And if that requires, based on our policies, that they capture the incident on a body camera, they’re going to do it," McLellan said. "Whether it’s an adult or a child, the criminal laws are still going to be apply, and the officers will still go through their investigative process."

"They are still subject to dealing with suspects, whether they’re juvenile or adult, in a school setting or out of a school setting. They’re still fulfilling their job in law enforcement," he added.

The high-profile arrest of Ahmed Mohammed inside Irving MacArthur High School last September made headlines around the world. The teen was pulled out of class, arrested and charged with making a hoax bomb. Criminal charges were soon dropped.

It's likely that if school resource officers had body cameras, that incident and the teen's questioning would've been captured on video. It possibly could have provided definitive answers about what the teen said and how he acted while police were investigating the possible threat.

Not every Torth Texas police department gives its school resource officers body cameras. The Fort Worth Independent School District contracts for 49 police officers — 45 in Fort Worth and 4 in Benbrook — to serve as school resource officers, according to spokesman Clint Bond. Only a few of them have body cameras.

The Dallas Independent School District has its own police force of about 120 officers, none of which have body cameras. A district spokeswoman said "there are preliminary discussions" about investing in body cameras in the years ahead.

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