Georgetown police using new body camera system

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Next time you come face to face with a Georgetown police officer, don’t be surprised when the officer is wearing a camera.

Every officer with the department is now required to wear a body camera while out on patrol.

“What that does is it helps to protect the officer, protect the citizen and give us immediate feedback on truly what happened on an incident,” Capt. Roland Waits with the Georgetown Police Department explained.

One such incident happened earlier this year during an exchange between a Georgetown Police officer and a motorist he pulled over.

“Guys, the reason I’m stopping you is you have a headlight out on your passenger side,” the officer starts off saying.

“This is why you guys are pieces of (expletive). Give me the (expletive) thing and I’ll sign it,” the driver retorted.

“You realize I’m trying to release you from here,” the officer said. “I want you to go on with your night.”

According to Georgetown Police, the man pulled over filed a complaint against the officer, saying he was being belligerent to him.

“What this has done is, it has helped clear a lot of those misconceptions, or misperceptions, relative to complaints being made,” Waits said.

“It sounds like an interesting idea,” Ben Galindo, a student who lives in Georgetown, said of the cameras. “To hold these officers accountable for certain things, just to get everything for the record straight.”

The department says the $100,000 they have spent on cameras save time and resources so officers can focus on keeping the city safe. With about 75 officers using cameras, the Georgetown Police Department is the largest agency to provide cameras for the entire force. But they aren’t the first to try them out.

The 25 or so officers in Lakeway Police already use the “eye-level” cameras in the field. At the end of every officer’s shift, they plug in the camera and it automatically downloads the video. That helps resolve complaints and provides evidence to prosecutors.

Austin police tried out body cameras in 2011 and decided the price tag of $800 to $2,500 per camera was too much. The department allows individual officers to purchase their own cameras and use them on patrol. It’s not clear how many have those cameras. Still, department policy allows the video to be used as evidence.

One study from a police department similar in size to Georgetown’s found officer cameras make everyone safer. The year-long test at the Rialto Police Department led to a 60 percent drop in “use of force” instances in the community east of Los Angeles. KXAN has learned complaints against officers dropped between 80 and 90 percent during that time.

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