Surprise donation funds body cams for Burnet police

(AP File Photo/Matt Rourke)
Body camera (AP File Photo/Matt Rourke)

BURNET (KXAN) — Police departments across Central Texas are still working to equip their officers with body cameras. Authorities say it helps provide transparency and accountability on the force, and for the Burnet Police Department, their officers will all get body cameras thanks to an unexpected donation.

“I was stunned. She’s an awesome lady. she backs law enforcement and the fire department … I was shocked,” said Police Chief Paul Nelson who received a $4,000 check from Stella Pelej. “We have great citizens in this city, but for someone to come up and give us $4,000, that has never happened before.”

Nelson said he had a conversation with the Burnet neighbor about two weeks before he planned to go to city council to try and get money to buy 15 body cameras. Nelson said they would have to pull for different sections of the budget because they didn’t slot out $4,500 for 2015.

“I believe that she was trying to get informed and next thing I know she gives us the check for $4,000,” Nelson said. “Nothing that we anticipated at all.”

“Anything that I can do to help my police force make their job safer, makes me safer,” said Pelej. She said she went to the police department about two weeks ago to thank officers for constantly patrolling her neighborhood. She asked Nelson what projects they were working on and he mentioned the body cameras.

“I told him that I like participating in things that help the people around me, so I said ‘do you have any projects in mind?'”

It was then that he told her about reaching out to council for the personal cameras.

“That’s exactly what I want,” Pelej said of the cameras. “Whatever they do to improve their first class service that they already have, this just adds another dimension to my security.”

The police department ordered the cameras through a company called VIEVU last week and expect them soon. Nelson said their school resource officer has been using it since 2013 and it has helped with incidents that happen between students and teachers.

“We know it’s not going to be 100 percent, there maybe times it [body cameras] may not catch everything, and we understand that, but to me it will add more protection to the officer, and to the citizen,” said Nelson. The police department signed a three-year contract with the company.

Pelej footed the bill for this year, but Nelson said there will be a designated amount, $4,500, set aside in the budget for the next two years. He said they are leasing the cameras instead of buying them because they will be under warranty the entire time. The warranty for purchased cameras runs out after one year.

The cameras also come equipped with a docking system that syncs up to the computers. Officers will upload all their video each day, and the footage will stay in the system for 90 days. If video evidence is needed for a case, officers will be able to burn a DVD.

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