Texas grant opens door for body cameras
By Joseph Basco
MIDLAND, Texas — A $17,000 grant from the governor's office may provide the Midland Police Department with body cameras, a technological tool that could provide officers more evidence, but also minimize any misconduct on their part.
During Monday's Commissioners' Court meeting, commissioners authorized application for the grant, which provides funds for MPD but not the Midland County Sheriff's Office. Though the approval or arrival of the funding is yet to be determined, it is estimated that 52 cameras at $300 a piece may be purchased with the grant.
District Attorney Teresa Clingman, who was contacted by the Office of the Governor regarding the grant, said the body cameras can provide video and audio evidence captured at the location of the incident for the benefit of the criminal justice system. As an example she said, the body cameras can capture the distraught mannerisms of a family violence victim at the scene, which may conflict with the person's mannerisms later on.
"Sometimes, that could really make it as far as us being able to prosecute that case," Clingman said.
The cameras, which clip to the front pocket of an officer's uniform, have been gaining attention or adoption in other police departments across the country. The Los Angeles Police Department recently began testing body cameras on 30 officers. And in Washington, D.C., on Friday, the police chief expressed support of body cameras for officer conduct surveillance.
"As an administrator, I see it as a training tool, to give me the opportunity to go in and see what the officer is doing, how he's projecting himself and see the actions that he takes," Sheriff Gary Painter said. "Was it right, was it wrong? Did it violate my policies?"
During Commissioners' Court, Painter expressed his support for the MPD body cameras, but also for his own deputies. County Judge Mike Bradford said during the meeting that he will be inquiring to see if additional funding can be provided for MCSO body cameras.
"I think if they (Office of the Governor) give us the opportunity to include all law enforcement officers, I think it will be better for the criminal justice system statewide," Painter said.
Also at Monday's meeting, commissioners approved two new X-ray scanners for the county courthouse security gates to replace existing 14-year-old ones.
The scanners, which are attached to conveyor belts and peer through purses, wallets and other items, will have upgraded software that provides a clearer picture. The upgrade was a plan two years in the making.
"As you know with computers, the older they get, they start to have circuitry problems," said Andy Acklin, lieutenant for the Midland County Sheriff's Office. "It's going to make officers' jobs easier and more efficient."
Acklin said the two scanners will cost a total of $48,000.
Copyright 2014 the Midland Reporter-Telegram