Austin could get $750K in state grant money for body cameras

FILE - Police body cam (AP File Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
FILE - Police body cam (AP File Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Money from a recently-created state grant program stands to take a big chunk out of the $2 million price tag Austin police expect to spend this year on the city’s first department-wide, officer body-worn camera program. The Austin Police Department recently confirmed they were interested in applying for the grant under the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division.

Preliminary information shows APD will receive $750,000 in grant funds for 500 cameras.

“Each agency is now free to apply at their leisure between today and July 15.  We will review and approve applications as they come in, rather than in one big group. So all done by August 15 or so, but grants drizzling out over time,” wrote Gov. Abbott’s Press Secretary, John Wittman in an email to KXAN.

In October, the Governor’s Office announced the $10 million program is likely a one-time offer and will “aid municipal police departments and county sheriffs’ offices in establishing or enhancing body-worn camera (BWC) programs.” Grantees must provide matching funds equal to 25 percent of the grant.

Austin is second only to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in total grant dollars awarded to 267 Texas law enforcement agencies. Statewide, the $10 million fund will provide 9,953 cameras divided between 16,913 officers at 267 law enforcement agencies large and small.

Agency Number of Officers Allocated Cameras Grant Amount
Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office 50 50 $52,500
Bastrop Police Department 15 15 $10,207
Bell County Sheriff’s Office 34 25 $12,550
Caldwell Co. Sheriff’s Office 25 25 $10,740
Fayette Co. Sheriff’s Office 27 27 $51,539
Fredericksburg Police Department 22 22 $25,062
Hutto Police Department 25 25 $34,375
Lago Vista Police Department 13 13 $9,075
Lampasas Co. Sheriff’s Office 14 15 $9,540
Manor Police Department 20 20 $32,002
Marble Falls Police Department 13 13 $9,000
Round Rock Police Department 102 90 $75,000
San Marcos Police Department 75 75 $50,914
Smithville Police Department 8 8 $3,920
Travis Co. Sheriff’s Office 260 50 $128,123
Total (w/ APD): $1,265,547

Many police departments in Central Texas already have, or are, looking at adding body cameras. Manor’s Police Chief says his city council was resistant to spending more than $30,000 in local funds for 20 new body cameras that sync with the department’s in-car camera system, so the Governor’s grant is the perfect solution.

“I haven’t heard anything negative within my department. It’s going to help our officers protect themselves from false claims… (and offer) extra protection for us on the street,” newly-minted Chief Ryan Phipps tells KXAN, adding he expects to receive the new gear and storage hardware this spring.

Austin police say they plan to have downtown officers outfitted with body cameras in time for this year’s Fourth of july celebrations. A Request for Proposals period ended Jan. 15 and city staff are now in the process of picking the vendor through a scoring process from a group of 10 finalists.

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