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Government/Politics

Back To The Drawing Board For Statewide Police Body Camera Bill

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Ryan E. Poppe

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is hoping to work out the kinks in a bill that would require all police officers in the state of Texas be equipped with body cameras. And while many law enforcement agencies agree with the concept, they see the bill as an unfunded mandate.

The bill’s author, Missouri City Democratic Rep. Ron Reynolds believes that body cameras could’ve served as a deterrent in the police shooting deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, New York City and most recently Charleston, South Carolina.

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
Missouri City Democratic Rep. Ron Reynolds

  “Those small minority of officers that are doing bad things, it will probably make them less likely to do what they do because they know there’s going to be some accountability,” said Reynolds.

He told the House Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Law Enforcement that he shuddered to think what the outcome would have been if an innocent bystander hadn’t recorded the shooting of Walter Scott by then-Charleston police officer Michael Slager.

But many law enforcement agencies see the bill as an unfunded mandate. Pasadena Republican Rep. Allan Fletcher is a retired Houston police officer and the chair of that committee looking at law enforcement issues. “The reality is it’s the open-records requests, it’s the back storage, it’s the back office that’s going to cost all the money,” Fletcher cautioned.

Fletcher says outfitting thousands of police officers in a major Texas city amounts to a mountain of data that would require a team to collect, process and store on large servers.

Several Texas cities, including the City of San Antonio have already begun to use officer-controlled body cameras, but most only exist as pilot programs. In a response to the legislation, San Antonio interim police Chief Anthony Trevino said he supported the use of cameras, but was concerned that the bill did not address privacy issues and how to go about making the video available to the public.

The bill was left pending in committee.