While APD 'bodycam' legal limbo continues, APA asking for ballistic vests

Last Thursday, City Council voted unanimously to accept $750,000 in grant funds from the State to offset the cost of buying about $12 to $17 million worth of body camera equipment. But actually buying said body cams is a different story, a slower one.

After council approved a contract with "Taser International" earlier this summer, competing bidder "Utility Associates" sued the city. Council Member Don Zimmerman feels there was an unfair bias toward Taser.

"Under the terms of the rules as far as I can see, they should have voted for Utility.  They would have gotten a better technical solution for millions less dollars," Zimmerman said.

On Friday, a Travis County District Judge granted a temporary injunction on the body cameras basically tying the hands of the city until the trial set for November 28th. On Monday, Police Association President Ken Casaday says he's okay with that.

"If it takes until November that's fine as far as I'm concerned.  Just as long as everything is done on the up and up and I believe it has been.  I think the department will show that," Casaday said.

At last week's council meeting about the state funding, Fatima Mann with the Austin Justice Coalition expressed her concerns with the city's policy surrounding the cameras and whether APD will actually provide the video to those who request it.

"I'm actually glad they're in litigation right now because they can't get their cameras right?  So that means now they have to sit down and actually do that process out because they're not gonna get the equipment for awhile anyway," Mann said.

In response to Friday's ruling on the body cams, the City of Austin says "The court's ruling is disappointing. An exhaustive review process was conducted for this procurement. The purchase and contract were approved by City Council. This judicial decision directly impacts the authority of the city to appropriately exercise discretion over its purchases of critical hardware. City staff is working to determine the appropriate next steps."

Something else is bothering Casaday. He says officers need new ballistic vests.

"The body armor that we wear now will not stop an AR-15 round or an AK-47 round...weapons that have been used to kill police officers over the last month," Casaday said.

Casaday says the first batch of vests will cost somewhere between $500 and $800,000. 

"I wanted to say that we're requesting but we're at a point to where we're demanding that we have this protection now to be able to protect the community and to also be able to go home at night," Casaday said.

If the city doesn't provide money for the vests he says they'll ask the community for help. Casaday says the Association has sent a letter to council about the vests and last week they brought the issue up with the Public Safety Commission, made up of citizens that's different than the Public Safety Committee Zimmerman sits on.  Zimmerman says the Association should bring the request there.

"If this is a critical need, bring it to the Public Safety Committee.  If we look at the evidence and say 'no' then sure, go to the public and say you disagree with the elected council.  But the fact is they bypass the elected council on everything," Zimmerman said.

Casaday says he's planning on meeting with council members individually this week.

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