Waco police now wearing body cameras

Posted at 7:33 PM, Sep 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-13 20:39:54-04

Waco police are adding to their arsenal.

This process has been two years in the making, but by the end of September, all 250 officers will be issued a body camera.

Around 85 percent of the department is already covered.

Officer Garen Bynum works in the traffic unit. He makes anywhere from 10 to 20 stops a day, never knowing what will happen when he gets to the driver's door.

"It's kind of a relief that we do have them now and that we are able to use them," Bynum said. "There have been several arrests that I've had, whether it be a weapons arrest or something like that, that this would've been really nice to have."

Sgt. Patrick Swanton said these cameras will serve as a training tool for officers. They will serve as evidence to keep the story straight if any actions are brought into question.

"Sometimes they will capture the great things we do and sometimes it will capture things people have questions about," Swanton said.

Waco Police Chief Ryan Holt said they are leasing the cameras for a 10-year period. Service and equipment for the first year will cost $353,000. He expects to pay $283,000 in subsequent years. The Waco City Council approved for the first year to be paid for upfront.

"We think it's well worth the investment in the future of our community," Holt said. 

The body cameras won't remain on at all times. Officers have gone through training to learn how to use them, what they're supposed to use them for and when they can have them turned off. 

The camera must be on during interactions with the public, when they are in the middle of an arrest and when they are in pursuit.

"We deal with life and death every day and our community wants to believe in us," Swanton said.

Recordings may be temporarily muted or paused if the officer needs to talk strategics during an on-going incident. They must also verbally communicate why they are turning it off.

The cameras will automatically turn on when the patrol car lights go off. It will also be activated as soon as an officer pulls their taser.

The footage can be kept anywhere from a couple of days to dozens of years in case it's ever needed.

"The vast majority of the time, it's going to show the officers doing the fantastic work that they're doing out there every day," Holt said.

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