City gets money from State of Texas for APD body cams

It was a rare unanimous vote on the dais Thursday morning.
Council approved accepting $750,000 in grant funds from the State of Texas to offset the cost of buying about 12 to $17 million worth of body camera equipment.
Assistant Chief Jason Dusterhoft says the $750,000 had been pre-approved.

"This was the formality part of going through the city council and having it approved.  Now that the council has approved it, we're probably going to be able to get the actual award in the next several weeks," Dusterhoft said.

As Fox 7 reported last month, the council-approved-contract for the body cams with a company called Taser International was basically put on hold by a Travis County District Court Judge -- because a competing company, Utility Associates, filed suit.

Dusterhoft is happy with the progress at Thursday's meeting.

"We want this to happen, we obviously...there's a process and we want to go through that process.  But in the end, we feel that this is really going to help with transparency," he said.

Fatima Mann, co-founder of the Austin Justice Coalition made sure council knew that not just the money but the policy surrounding the body cameras is very important.

"Yeah they're getting the money...yes we understand that we need body-wearing cameras but on top of that we need adequate policy that will allow them to be held accountable," Mann said.

She expressed to council how crucial it would have been if Breaion King had been able to watch body camera footage had the officers been issued them.

"Our biggest thing is 'what's the point of having cameras if no one is going to be able to see what the cameras catch?'  And that's not in writing right, so everyone is saying we should 'trust' APD, we should trust the system to tell us when and how...but no one is saying 'put it in writing,'" Mann said.

Dusterhoft says they want community feedback on policy.

"We're very open to that, we've already changed it numerous times.  This policy is not concrete.  When we find things that we feel aren't working or that we can improve on, we're going to do that," he said.

"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.

APD says when the litigation with Taser International and Utility is done then they can move forward with actually getting the body cams.