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City releases police body camera solicitation

Thursday, December 10, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

The Austin Police Department moved closer to kicking off its highly anticipated body camera pilot program on Monday, when the city quietly released a solicitation for contract bids online.

The contracts would be for the “purchase, implementation, and support” of the anticipated 500 body cameras to be rolled out over a four-month period next year, according to the request for proposals.

The city released the solicitation despite City Council Member Don Zimmerman’s request that it delay doing so in order to give Council or the Council Public Safety Committee an opportunity to publicly examine it first.

Joe Petronis, Zimmerman’s chief of staff, told the Austin Monitor on Wednesday that his office is currently reviewing the solicitation.

Those following the development of the program, to which Council allocated $3 million in the current budget, can glean some additional insight into what APD hopes the program will look like from the solicitation.

“The body camera shall automatically start based on event triggers such as the patrol vehicle front door opening,” reads the solicitation, and “the internal media shall be non-removable by the officer.”

Although officers would be able to manually start and stop recording, these specifications are in line with APD Chief Art Acevedo’s comment during a public forum on Nov. 30 that “the less human interaction, the better,” when it comes to operating the camera.

“Ideally,” the document also reads, the camera would transmit global position system, or GPS, coordinates for officer tracking and wirelessly upload the videos to the database where they will be stored.

APD Commander Ely Reyes, who is helping lead the way on the effort, said at that same meeting that he hopes to begin the rollout next summer and plans to complete it by Sept. 30, the close of the current fiscal year. The department is currently finalizing a draft body camera policy.

The solicitation states that, after the first year of the program, APD plans to roll out 500 cameras per year for two years, then 200 cameras for the following year, dependent on funding availability and need.

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