In Houston, the DA's office will spend $2 million to purchase bodycams for Houston PD officers, reported the Houston Chronicle (Dec. 11), which is a good start but less than would be required to equip every patrol officer. "This summer, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said he asked City Hall for $8 million to equip 3,500 officers with body cameras over the next three years, but funding for the equipment has not been identified," the paper reported.
Similarly, in Dallas (reported the Morning News last month), DA-elect Susan Hawk announced she would use asset forfeiture funds to buy bodycams for DPD, a move supported by the local policy union. At least some Fort Worth PD officers already use bodycams.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Express-News reported this week (Dec. 10) that SAPD Chief William McManus recommended to the city council :
that 210 officers on the Park Police and downtown bike patrol units incorporate the devices as a permanent part of their uniforms. Those officers currently do not have any camera system — unlike the majority of the officers, who have vehicles equipped with dashboard cameras.WOAI radio in San Antonio ran a brief piece saying "Texas cops support body camera idea," and KTRH radio in Houston sported a similar headline, though in my experience that may be too broad a generalization. Here's a good piece on how body cameras work.
The recommendation follows a six-month pilot program in which 150 officers were temporarily outfitted with devices.
It's not just big cities, though. Lakeway, west of Austin, has used bodycams for three years. Georgetown PD in Williamson County adopted them over the summer. Celina PD (straddling Collin and Denton counties) has used them for nine months. In tiny Whitehouse, Texas (well, not as tiny as it used to be - lots of growth in that neck of the woods), the local PD adopted body cameras for its officers about a month ago (KETK-TV, Dec. 9). "It's going to protect the innocent, whether it's the officer or the citizen," said the police chief. The version of the camera used in Whitehouse have no "delete" button so officers can't go back after the fact to erase a recording. "The price runs about $300 dollars for each camera. The Whitehouse police chief says he believes that these cameras are the future of law enforcement."
Tyler Junior College PD has also adopted bodycams for all officers, and the Gatesville city council voted this week to outfit their police officers with them. College Station will outfit bicycle and motorcycle cops with body cameras, as will the Texas A&M University police. In addition, "The Brazos County Sheriff's Office has outfitted its patrol and courthouse deputies with body cameras, and Sheriff Chris Kirk said last month that jail staff is also testing the gear." Further, "Bryan police are also looking into purchasing body cameras for its officers. The department currently has five body cameras being tested by patrol and school resource officers." The Smith County fire marshal even wants firefighters to wear them!
That's a lot of recent progress on this front. Bodycams are not a panacea, but they're no small thing, either.