Missouri City, TX Representative Ron Reynolds filed a bill last week for committee review that would require all police officers in Texas, who interact with the public, to be equipped with body cameras. Given the recent events surrounding the lack of cameras in the South Carolina shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed man killed by a police officer, Reynolds believes that the bill will benefit both the public and the police.
“We saw the officer’s account was totally different from what actually transpired,” Reynolds remarked over the South Carolina incident. “But for that video recording, it’s very unlikely that officer would be charged with murder. If that officer had a body camera, it’s very unlikely that he would have done that repulsive conduct.”
At the committee hearing, Reynolds pointed out that the intent was not to catch officers doing something wrong. It’s about easing community concerns and showing that most police officers are working their jobs, correctly.
So far no action has been taken on the bill.
Senator Royce West of Dallas has filed a separate bill that would set guidelines for body camera use, and would require police departments to apply for funding to obtain the equipment. His bill is scheduled for a hearing this week.
While a number of people wish to back both measures, some don’t believe the measure is necessary. Ron Hickman, a constable in Harris County, states that many Texas Law Enforcement agencies already use body cameras. Their presence has not reduced complaints against officers, nor has it reduced the use of force on the field. In general, it’s allowed everyone to be on their best behavior, but that’s about it.
Cost is also a concern. While the camera’s themselves can be cheap, departments also need to review storage space for the video feeds, and equipment maintenance – because they will break over time. There are also questions of how long should videos be saved and stored? 30 days? 60 days? A year? How long is too long to keep footage on file? And should these videos become a part of public record? There are many situations where conversations recorded on the camera may be innocuous. Or they may include details from a suspect about their personal lives that they may not want available for others to see and hear.
There are a lot of questions to be considered, but Texas is one of the few states looking to add police cameras sooner rather than later.
Officer Michael Slager, 33, is currently being held without bail on the charge of murder in the shooting death of Walter Scott. The city is perusing legal action against the former officer, as well as the family of the victim. With body cameras, Reynolds believes that the outcome of this situation could have been different.