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Houston Police To Outfit Officers With Body Cameras

President Obama recently announced a plan to provide federal dollars to increase the use of body cameras by police officers across the country. It comes in response to public protests linked to the use of deadly force by some cops. While they may become as common as a police badge, some Houston Police officers are raising concerns about the technology.

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About a hundred Houston police officers volunteered for a pilot project that was launched last year. Chief Charles McClelland has long supported the concept behind body cameras.

“I just think that it’s a matter of time before every law enforcement agency in the United States have body cams. It’s not if anymore, it’s when,” says McClelland.

But wearing them is not all there is to consider. Video storage is costly and takes up a lot of space.

There are also strict statutory requirements. Police are not allowed to videotape some crime victims.

It would cost about $7 million dollars to outfit police officers on the street with body cams. McClelland says since the mayor supports the program, it will be up to council to find the money.

“This is something that she says that we will get done. And because of the technology challenge and the infrastructure that has to be put in place, it will probably take about a year to fully implement,” says McClelland. 

McClelland realizes that a camera can only capture an image, and may miss the emotions or context of a situation. Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, says officers should tell anyone they encounter that they’re being recorded. 

“However, we would completely oppose any body cameras that were on from the time that we start our shift, until the time that we end our shift. There’s certain privacy issues that concern us, so we want the technology that we’re able to turn on and turn off,” says Hunt.

He adds unlike what happened in Ferguson, Mo and New York City, the HPD has always been up front in being transparent with citizens.

“Our police chief makes a comment regularly that says, if we mess up, we’re going to fess up and we’re going to clean up,” says Hunt.   

There are currently 5,400 Houston Police officers eligible for body cameras.

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