The Hewitt Police Department is applying for a state grant to outfit all of its 25 officers with body cameras.
The department is requesting funds from Office of the Governor's Criminal Justice Division to pay for the body cameras, which Hewitt Police Chief Devlin said cost $32,000. The police department would put in 20 percent of the cost or $6,800 and pay almost $2,000 for IT services and video storage. To pay for that, police would use asset and forfeiture funds.
Devlin said his officers are looking forward to the possibility of having body cameras.
"There is the overwhelming sense that everybody needs to see what's going on as far as these incidents are concerned. We agree,” Devlin said.
Currently, police have cameras inside of their patrol cars, which record footage of everything happening in front of the vehicle.
"It helps us in instances, we may have gone out of range from the car and the audio doesn't pick up. This is going to supplement that, because it records to the unit itself and there is that video file right there,” Devlin said.
Hewitt resident Jessika Judge said having the body cameras would help residents and officers.
"I think visually being able to see what happened at a traffic stop or at an arrest or whatever the case may be, I think it's better for them to have that they can go over and if something negatively were to happen, that can be approached,” Judge said.
She added if something tragic happened, this would offer officers an opportunity to show their side instead of being suspended without pay or terminated.
Kodie Muehlstein, who visits Hewitt often, said with officer-involved shootings across the country, it’s a smart move to have body cameras.
"Everywhere else in the United States, body cameras have been such a big deal, ‘he said, she said’ kind of stuff, and if it came down to that, we have proof, this is what happened,” Muehlstein said.
Devlin said having body cameras would be helpful, giving another dimension of first person sight of what happened. However, there is still more to the story.
"It's not the end-all be-all of going to see everything there is to see," Devlin said. "The body cam can't take into account some of things the officer notices [like] body language, other issues that may come up."
If the department doesn’t get the grant, Devlin said it would use the asset and forfeiture funds that had set aside for the cameras and storage to purchase a few of them. In addition, it would add the cost of the rest of the cameras in its budget for the next three to four years.
"Even if we didn't have the grant or we didn't apply for the grant process, body cameras were coming whether we pay for them ourselves or whether we use state funding,” Devlin said.
The city council passed a resolution recently supporting the police department applying for the grant.
Waco Police told News Channel 25 it is working to get body cameras but there is no timeline on when that will happen yet. The Bell County Sheriff's Department has been using body cams since 2015.
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