TUPD body camera footage qualifies as public record

The Tulane University Police Department’s decision to buy body cameras for its officers without a clear, initial protocol for how footage from the cameras will be viewed and distributed was irresponsible, especially considering the equipment’s high expense.

While the department should be commended for its attempts to expand responsibility on campus, using a buy first, ask later policy is not a sustainable practice and fails to prioritize student interests. In addition, the department’s failure to invite students into a dialogue about the equipment before buying cameras questions how seriously TUPD takes the Tulane community and students’ needs.

While TUPD considers itself a private agency, it is in fact a public body. TUPD’s website clearly states that Tulane took the “unprecedented step” to extend its jurisdiction one mile off campus, and it both works with and possesses the same arrest powers as the New Orleans Police Department. Given this public authority and that Tulane has already decided to invest in these cameras, TUPD should be required to use them to keep the officers accountable to the public. They should not only be used for internal review.

TUPD states that requests for the cameras’ footage must go through the Office of General Counsel, Tulane’s legal offices, but the cameras would best serve the community if the footage of criminal incidents in public spaces were easily accessible the same way crime reports are available in accordance with public records laws.

As the main police force for Tulane students living on campus and in the immediate vicinity of campus, TUPD holds great power and responsibility in protecting Tulane students. TUPD’s concerns are its students’ concerns — its primary goal must be to protect the Tulane community, not just itself.