The Silent Partner That Forgets Nothing

Kuboviak heads the Law Enforcement Mobile Video Institute.
Kuboviak heads the Law Enforcement Mobile Video Institute.

After 40 plus years in the criminal justice system, James Kuboviak is still learning.

As County Attorney for Brazos County from 1985-2008, Kuboviak initiated three innovative programs – a family violence unit, a hot check program, and mobile video recording of drunken driving arrests.

Kuboviak served as Brazos County Attorney from 1985-2008.
Kuboviak served as Brazos County Attorney from 1985-2008.
Kuboviak (BS ’72) combined his experience as a police officer and his prowess as a prosecutor to come up with effective plans to combat common criminal justice issues in his community from the field to the courts. As the first in Texas to debut a mobile video camera in Bryan, Texas police cars, he had to build a prototype using a cumbersome VHS machine, built on the pool table in his home.

Twenty four years later, compact digital windshield mounted video cameras in police cars are commonplace, and Kuboviak has travelled to 39 states to train officers on how to use these devices effectively. His dream is to have a standard, national curriculum, policy and procedures in the use of mobile cameras in all 50 states.

“I’ve kind of made it my passion,” said Kuboviak, Director of the Law Enforcement Mobile Video Institute, which boasts many national awards and accolades for its training programs. “I gave it birth and now I’ve got to see it to the end. It‘s kind of the legacy I want to leave law enforcement.”

Mobile video cameras are used to document such occurrences as sobriety field testing and in drug interdiction traffic stops on highways. They also have been used to capture high speed chases and accidents involving police officers. Kuboviak calls them the “silent partner that forgets nothing.”

Artistic picture of a camera lense that looks like an eye.“It brings the truth to the courtroom,” said Kuboviak. “It’s also a double-edged sword. It will exonerate the innocent and convict the guilty.”

This intersection of police and prosecution has driven Kuboviak to develop the curriculum that helps to get the desired result in court, to educate departments about proper equipment and usage and to enhance safety for officers in the field. The 280-page curriculum, taught to officers in courses ranging from 16 to 32 hours, covers the legal, ethical and procedural use of in-car videotaping systems.

The program has won awards from the National Association of Governor’s Highway Safety Representatives, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, The National Highway Safety Administration and the National Commission Against Drunk Driving.

Among the issues addressed in the course are:

  • Officer safety
  • Proper vehicle position and lighting for accurate video recording
  • A demonstration, discussion and operation of various styles and brands of mobile video equipment
  • Relevant and current case law on the use of mobile video recordings
  • Steps and documentation in the investigations program
  • Policy considerations

In addition to training law enforcement at the local, county, state and federal levels, including the federal park system and the Bureau of Land Management, police officers have come to Texas and attended the course from as far away as Australia, Canada, Guam, and Japan. Before finding his mission in mobile video cameras, Kuboviak’s career took a lot of different twists and turns.

Kuboviak served as a police officer at SHSU and in Oxford, MS.
Kuboviak served as a police officer at SHSU and in Oxford, MS.

Kuboviak began as a police officer at the University Police Department while attending Sam Houston State University and later worked as an Oxford, MS police officer while a graduate student at the University of Mississippi.

Kuboviak graduated from the Ole Miss with two Master’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Social Science and later taught at Itawamba Junior College in Fulton, MS.

Kuboviak decided to pursue a law degree because it provided more options than a Ph.D. and he returned to Texas to St. Mary’s University School of Law to get his J.D. During law school he worked for a couple of years in the legal department of the San Antonio Police Department.

Kuboviak became an assistant district attorney in Brazos County for four years and was then was elected Brazos County Attorney in 1985.

“Becoming an elected official gave me the opportunity to create,” said Kuboviak. “I was trying to find a cure for a particular problem, not just a band aid. “My education did not stop there. Professionalism is mixture of experience and education; neither is worth anything without the other.”

Kuboviak continued learning by completing a Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas A&M University, which assisted him in the mobile video recording curriculum development and still assists him in the over 20 mobile video schools he and the other members of the training team conduct annually.

Because of the repeated domestic violence cases he saw as an officer and prosecutor, Brazos County became only the second in the state to create a domestic violence unit. When Kuboviak saw 4,500 outstanding bad checks in the county, he created a hot check program, which reduced the problem through a policy that gave debtors 10 days to pay up or go to jail.

After a new state law passed requiring jurisdictions with population over 25,000 to have and maintain video equipment, he saw DWI cases fail because of the time it took to get the offender to the police station. With a mobile video recording, jurors are able to see in real time exactly what the police officer saw on the side of the road.

After reading about a mobile camera system in Bountiful, Utah and riding along with the city’s night patrol, he built and tested an onboard camera system with the Bryan Police Department. A study by the Texas Transportation Institute did research on the pilot and found a higher conviction rate with mobile videotaping of DWI offenders versus stationhouse video recording. He raised funds through local organizations to build more in-car camera systems, and the program expanded to College Station, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas A&M University Police and the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office.

Kuboviak has trained thousands of law enforcement officers in the use of mobile video cameras, including this group from San Antonio.
Kuboviak has trained thousands of law enforcement officers in the use of mobile video cameras, including this group from San Antonio.
Now all 50 states have adopted some form of mobile video recording in their respective states, and there are over a dozen companies manufacturing mobile video systems for law enforcement.

For 10 years, he traveled the country spreading the word about mobile cameras and in 1995 he started the Law Enforcement Mobile Video Institute to train departments on how to legally and procedurally use the new systems. A year later, the roadside shooting death of Constable Darrell Edward Lunsford Sr. by drug traffickers was captured on one of Kuboviak’s homemade cameras systems. The video went viral, and Kuboviak believes it prompted the new age of in-car video monitoring.

“In 1969, when I started, if a police officer took the witness stand, the jury believed him,” said Kuboviak. “Because of Rodney King and the advent of forensic science because TV shows such as CSI, now the jury has questions. It is no longer a fad.”

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