Houston-area police given $1.9M for body cameras

Police Body Cameras
FILE. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston-area law enforcement officials, along with community and religious leaders, on Friday praised a nearly $2 million donation by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to purchase body cameras for officers.

The Houston Police Department will receive $1 million while the Harris County Sheriff’s Office will get $900,000 to outfit officers.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said the donation was prompted after she attended a recent town hall meeting about improving relations between police and the community in the wake of recent grand jury decisions in the officer-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. At the meeting, many residents asked that officers wear body cameras.

“Across the country, citizens are asking for this technology and the officers I’ve spoken with are more than willing to wear it,” Anderson said. “Funding is an issue. Because we are all in this together, our office has decided to help with this problem.”

The money will be coming from civil forfeiture funds collected by Anderson’s office. After decisions in the Brown and Garner cases, President Barack Obama asked Congress to provide $263 million for 50,000 body cameras and training for local police departments.

Anderson’s announcement comes after Houston police Chief Charles McClelland previously said his department was working to equip 3,500 officers over a three-year period.

Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo said 100 officers have already been equipped as part of a pilot program. The donation will help the department purchase between 600 and 800 cameras.

“This is about ensuring the safety of our officers, but just as importantly ensuring the trust of the community in how we police it,” Montalvo said.

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said the donation will allow his agency to outfit 900 deputies.

Rev. Reginald Lillie, president of the Houston chapter of the NAACP, said he hopes the example set by Anderson’s office will be followed by other communities around the country in efforts to support the use of body cameras.

“It’s not a cure for all, but it is a good step,” Lillie said.

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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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