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Harris County Makes Big Investment To Equip Law Enforcement Agencies With Body Cameras

The Commissioners Court approves spending $2.8 million on the purchase of almost 1,000 cameras and the development of the computer systems that will archive the video.

The Harris County Commissioners Court has approved spending 2.8 million dollars on purchasing almost 1,000 body cameras for law enforcement agencies that operate in the county and to develop computer systems to archive the video.
The Harris County Commissioners Court has approved spending 2.8 million dollars on purchasing almost 1,000 body cameras for law enforcement agencies that operate in the county and to develop computer systems to archive the video.

The Harris County Commissioners Court approved this week spending $2.8 million on purchasing almost 1,000 body cameras for law enforcement agencies that operate in the county.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office will get most of them and the rest will go to deputies that work for constables' offices.

Steve Higginbotham, chief technology officer for Harris County's Central Technology Services, notes the deputies will wear the cameras on their shirts and there are two ways to turn them on.

"One is via push button, and the other is linked with the Arbitrator system in their car –with the camera system in their car— so when their car camera is automatically triggered, the body cam will automatically trigger also," Higginbotham explains.

Part of the funding the Commissioners Court approved will also be used to develop computer systems to archive the video.

That will be one of the biggest challenges because eventually hundreds of deputies will be recording video daily and that means many hours of material.

In Texas, law enforcement agencies that use body cameras must keep the video for 90 days.

4 Examples of the body cameras
Examples of the body cameras the Harris County Sheriff's Office is testing:(L-R): eyeglass, chest, pocket, shoulder

But, if the video captures the use of deadly force or if it is related to an administrative or criminal investigation, it must be retained as long as necessary.

Major Kevin Scruggs oversees the body camera program at the HCSO. He says that buying the devices is just the first step of a lengthy process because "we are going to have to train about a thousand officers."

"It’s a huge training effort so that everybody knows how to appropriately classify, categorize, collect and offload that data," Scruggs adds.

Deputies from the HCSO have been testing body cameras since last year and Scruggs says they see them as a tool that will help them.

The HCSO anticipates its deputies will start using the body cameras next summer.

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