City of Austin to move forward with police body cameras after court ruling

The Austin Police Department is one step closer to outfitting all patrol officers with body cameras.

“We need cameras. Evidence shows that and, by the way, we're the last large major city in Texas, Austin, Texas, still called progressive Austin, to get body cameras,” said Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder. 

Linder’s reasons for wanting the cameras have remained the same.

“We want to see the truth. We don't want anything that's unfair,” Linder said. 

However, a lot has changed since the idea was brought up in 2012. Austin has sworn in a new mayor and city council, and an interim police chief and city manager.

“Our community has wanted body cameras for quite some time; the police department has wanted body cameras for quite some,” said Interim police Chief Brian Manley. 

“This is a government issue. The City Council bears the blame for this and they ought to be ashamed of themselves. This is long overdue and they put up a lot of arguments that were bogus in my opinion. They even created a lawsuit,” Linder said. 

When Utility Associates sued the city for choosing to move forward with a contract to purchase the cameras from Taser International instead, the entire process was frozen for several months.

Friday, a Texas court of appeals ruled against Utility Associates making way for the city to begin moving forward with body cameras once more.

“It's about transparency. It's long overdue. This is good for everybody, this is a win-win situation,” said Linder. 

“It wouldn't be surprising if we get them fast and wouldn't surprise me if it took a year or two. You just never know how long things will be tied up in the court system,” said President of the Austin Police Association Ken Casaday.

Regarding the ruling, attorneys for Utility Associates released a statement that reads in part:
"The City ran an illegal procurement through a corrupt process and our client, Utility Associates, continues to seek its day in court to obtain a contract that is best for the Austin Police Department and the City of Austin taxpayers and that should rightly have been awarded to it."

The company plans to appeal the ruling, but in the meantime the city will be able to begin purchasing body cameras for the police department.
               
Casaday said it's important to remember that the body cameras won't pick up every angle and will not always be as clear as people may hope, but he says most Austin police officers are all for wearing them.

“I've seen it save a lot of officer's careers just in the last two years,” Casaday said. 

“We strive to have as much transparency as possible. We put video cameras in our cars years ago and we've had benefits from that. I think this is going to take it to the next step,” Manley said.

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