More local police departments look into use of body cameras

LAKEWAY, Texas (KXAN) — More and more police departments are considering the use of body cameras.

The City of Buda was originally going to discuss purchasing such technology at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, but the police chief there decided they needed to look into it further.

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Austin police body cameras
Austin Police have tried out body cameras. In the Spring of 2011, nine foot and bike patrol officers tested out the cameras during the Texas Relays. The price tag was between $800 and $2,500.
APD said they decided not to purchase any because of budgeting and doubts about the technology. However, some officers have purchased their own and use them while on patrol.
The department remains open to buying body cameras depending on what options are available.

The Austin Police Department has considered the technology in the past, and Lakeway police officers have been using the cameras for several years.

“It’s going really well,” said Police Chief Todd Radford. “We’ve been very fortunate to have this technology.”

Radford says the department’s 25 officers in the field use the cameras.

The small camera piece, no more than four inches long, is wired to a battery pack officers keep in a front pocket. The camera mounts to glasses, a headband or a hat using a magnet. The battery pack has an activation button and officer just has to tap to turn the camera on and to start and stop recording. The eye level device captures exactly what an officer is seeing.

Radford says these types of cameras are more efficient than what a dash-cam, or even a chest level camera, might catch.

A video provided by the Lakeway Police Department (watch in the player above) shows an officer heading out to a call where a man and woman were fighting on the side of a road. The video shows three different perspectives; one is a dash-cam, another is a chest level camera, and the third is the eye level camera.

When the officer get out his cruiser and runs after the two, the dash cam loses the scene. Soon, the chest camera also doesn’t capture exactly what the officer sees as he turns his head. The eye-level camera shows everything the officer sees.

Police say the technology also saves them time, and no more running video downtown to prosecutors. It’s simply uploaded and shared through secure web links.

“Each officer has their badge number, and a slot for their camera,” said Lakeway Police Capt. Ken Farr. “When they plug it in, it goes through the Ethernet cable and up into the cloud.”

Police can also use the evidence to quickly resolve citizen’s complaints, offering greater transparency, and ultimately, a stronger police force.

“If there’s an opportunity for us to get better based on how we’re doing in the field, then it was worth it to me,” said Radford.

The chief says each camera with the equipment and storage space can range in price. He says they paid right around $1,000 per camera. Radford also says their department says they get calls from other police forces across Texas, and the country, asking about the cameras and how the technology is working for them.

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