New Laws for Police Could Put Jobs on the Line

Police reform is happening around the country. For the past year, police communication laws have been part of that reform. Multiple states have enacted laws that limit police online communication, and others are requiring departments to save all shared information.

Is your department ready for those restrictions and scrutiny?

In Texas, failure to retain texts is a misdemeanor. The Arizona Attorney General has ruled that all texts are public records. Florida defines “public records” as nearly anything transmitted, made, or received in connection with public business. This includes your internal departmental communication. It’s the same in Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Indiana, Illinois, and other states that are following suit.

Even if your state does not currently have a law, chances are high that it will enact one in the near future with police reform happening around the country. Get ahead of the law and make sure your department is compliant now.

Here are the summaries of two laws that other states could model.

Police Communication Laws

Texas Police Communication Laws

Texas has particularly strict laws regarding police communication. S.B. 944 is the name of a law that was passed in 2019 that could result in a misdemeanor that could prohibit officers who violate the law from ever working in law enforcement again.

Summary of S.B. 944 in Texas

Below are a few of the important highlights of S.B. 944.

All Data Must Be Stored on a Government Server

On the surface, forwarding all departmental communication to be saved for future reference sounds like a huge job. You are required to save all communication that former and current employees have on the clock. Without a universal, secure messaging system, it would be a huge job to save it.

With Genasys Protect CONNECT, any information shared on the app is stored in the cloud and accessible on your encrypted portal at any time. Your department’s data cannot be deleted or altered and can be downloaded to a server you control at any time or at pre-determined intervals. As the chief, you own the data and information.

No Deleting and Editing Messages

You must store your data on your devices without deleting or editing any messages. As you know, most apps let you delete messages, photos, or videos.

On CONNECT, your employees’ departmental communication data is stored in the cloud and cannot be altered, deleted, or changed. The data is stored forever, which keeps your department compliant and your officers safe.

Further, according to S.B. 944, each department is responsible for protecting all public information from deterioration or loss. Your data is automatically preserved in your CONNECT encrypted portal, which you own and have immediate access to.

Employees Cannot Own Data Collected On Duty

Employees don’t have a right to the information they collect or receive during the course of business. That’s hard to enforce with consumer apps and traditional SMS. If your officer texts another officer case information, they could share or distribute it from there, even though they don’t own the information. You would never know they shared the information, and at that point, multiple people had access to it.

By having all data and information automatically stored in your agency’s encrypted CONNECT portal, YOU have full rights to this information and data. Your employees don’t own the information, and there is no confusion as to who owns the data.

S.B. 944 includes more specific requirements that departments are required to follow. Without an app like CONNECT, it is nearly impossible to enforce every part of the law.

California Police Communication Laws

California just passed a new law that results in a misdemeanor and potential fine for officers taking or sharing unauthorized photos of victims at an accident or crime scene. It goes into effect on January 1, 2021.

If you are in California, are you ready for this law to go into effect? If you are not in California, are you ready for your state to enact a similar law?

Why did California enact a police communication law?

This law was created after an incident during the Kobe Bryant crash investigation. After the January helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and others, officers were found to have taken and texted graphic photos of the crime scene.

The sheriff ordered these photos deleted, but they were already widely distributed, and it was impossible to delete the photos from every device. This law was created to prevent that from happening again.

All it takes is one incident for your state to create a similar law.

We have seen police chiefs around the country fired for minor incidents lately. Don’t let that happen to your department. Get a secure messaging platform in place now before it is your job on the line.

Contact us to schedule a demo of CONNECT today. Try it out and get compliant now.