By Samantha Smith
As the Austin Police Department debated the cost and privacy concerns of body worn cameras for officers, the Kyle and Buda police departments continued use of the devices to ensure the safety of citizens and officers alike.
“There’s no question that body cams have a great benefit. It’s the defender of truth,” Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd said.
Kidd said that the Buda Police Department was among the first to adopt the technology. Buda police began using body worn cameras in 2013.
Kidd said he prefers his officers to wear a head mounted camera in order to see the officer’s “point of view.”
Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett said that his department is still testing different brands of body cameras as some brands are not durable enough.
He said the next batch of cameras is coming from a company called Taser International, which manufactures non-lethal stun guns.
Barnett mentioned that body cams seemed to prove more useful for motorcycle officers due to the inability of the motorcycle to house a dash cam.
But he said that use of the body cameras would be beneficial in substituting the need for accurate footage and audio from police cars dash cams.
“The in-car camera systems are designed for traffic stops since the microphone attached to the camera picks up less audio the further away people are from the police car,” Barnett said.
Barnett also mentioned that while body cams are beneficial, they also present challenges to the department.
The data from the cameras has to be saved and stored in a secured place. In addition, the video files need to be copied for specific situations, and Public Information Act requests for the video footage need to be regulated to ensure that the released videos do not contain any sensitive information. An example is footage from an ongoing criminal investigation.
Kidd, on the other hand, likes the system the body cameras have set up in his department.
He said that the body cameras were sold as a package deal with an online cloud system for storing the video files, which has prompted the department to go paperless.
Barnett remains optimistic about the use of body cameras despite the challenges that come with them.
“It could potentially cut down on complaints against officers,” Barnett said.
Kidd is optimistic about the future of body cameras as well.
“I think it’s a good thing to require officers to wear body cameras. It’s good for our department and it’s the future of law enforcement,” Kidd said.