SAPD cuts timeline for releasing shooting videos to 30 days

Policy still longer than some other Texas police departments

The San Antonio Police Department has cut its timeline for releasing body camera video of police shootings in half. The new policy is to release video of so-called "critical incidents" in 30 days, instead of 60. Though it still allows the chief to delay the release.

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Police Department has cut its timeline for releasing videos of police shootings in half -- from 60 days down to 30.

However, it’s still longer than some other large Texas police departments, or even the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.

The change to the “critical incident information release” policy, which also includes other officer use of force that result in serious injury or death, was quietly instituted on Monday and is reflected in the SAPD general manual posted online.

The department policy still allows Chief William McManus to delay the release of video or audio recordings, though he is supposed to explain his reasoning for doing so within the same timeline.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the change in the policy’s timeline.

An SAPD spokeswoman said no one was available for interviews Friday after KSAT made multiple requests via email. Following an additional interview request on Monday, she emailed this statement:

“When Chief McManus implemented this procedure in December 2020, he set a 60-day release timeline to ensure accurate information was being provided to the public and most importantly to allow the grieving family an opportunity to watch the video. Based on our experience with this procedure, he now believes that can be accomplished in 30 days or less.”

Prior to the change, videos of several recent incidents were released long before the 60-day mark.

Video of the March 14 shooting of Kevin Johnson was released 18 days later, on April 1. Community members, including Johnson’s family had called for it to be released in the days after he was killed.

SAPD then released videos of both the May 27 shooting of Japeth Perea and May 28 shooting of Roger Flores on May 28 on Jun. 15 - 18 and 19 days later, respectively.

And while state law bars police from releasing shooting video involving juveniles, the family of Andre “AJ” Hernandez, 13, was able to privately view video of the Jun. 3 shooting within 11 days.

Still, other law enforcement agencies have policies to turn video over more quickly than SAPD.

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office agreed to a more stringent, 10-day turnaround in February at the insistence of county commissioners.

So far, a BCSO spokesman says only one incident has fallen under its new policy - the Apr. 5 shooting death of Robert Inosencio after a deputy was shot while trying to arrest him on two felony warrants. BCSO announced 10 business days after the shooting that, at the request of Inosencio’s family, the video would not be released.

READ MORE: Sheriff defends decision to withhold body cam video of April 5 shooting that wounded deputy, left suspect dead

During the push to change the BCSO policy, Bexar County staff in December 2021 presented a comparison with numerous other agencies, in and outside of Texas, which had quicker turnarounds than SAPD’s 60-day policy.

While county staff reported at the time that Houston Police had a 30-day turnaround, they also found the Austin Police Department had a 10-business day policy, and Dallas Police had a 72-hour turnaround.

Research Bexar County staff presented to commissioners in December 2021 during a push to institute a 10-day video release policy

Act 4 SA Executive Director Ananda Tomas, who helped call for BCSO to adopt its 10-day video release policy, said Friday she thought SAPD’s policy change was a good sign the department is listening to the public.

However, she thinks they can do more.

“I’m optimistic that if we as a community keep pushing and city council joins along with us, that we can make this even shorter. Ten business days, right, is enough that I think to turn out this body camera footage, because we’ve seen it happen time and time and time again,” Tomas said.

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.