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County applies for police body camera grant

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

The Travis County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to approve an application submitted by the Sheriff’s Office for a new statewide police body camera grant for a county body camera pilot program.

The measure passed on a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Brigid Shea absent.

Alan Miller, a budget analyst with the county, wrote in a memo to the commission that the county has not yet developed a body camera policy and training program – which is required under the grant – although it has earmarked $100,000 for a pilot.

If awarded, the grant and county match would fund 50 body cameras and one year of storage.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt described the pilot as an effort to “see whether the body cameras provide the additional security at a cost that is sustainable.” She noted that the city of Austin is initiating a pilot for the Austin Police Department in the coming months and added that the county “could simply ride coattail on their pilot and see how theirs goes.”

Karen Maxwell, a senior planner with the Sheriff’s Office, wrote in the grant summary sheet that the grant would allow the county to “leverage a portion of (earmarked) funding for maximized effect and fiscal efficiency.”

The grant requires a 25 percent match from the county, which has proposed contributing $42,708 in hopes of receiving $128,123. The county would also have to maintain the equipment for three years after purchasing it.

Miller told the commission that it would likely have to file a second application with the state if it wishes to move forward. “They’re collecting sort of all of the applications from around the state and matching it against the available funding source, and then they’re going to make a generalized recommendation and direct their applicants to submit a formal application,” he said.

If the commission chooses not to move forward with the grant, it could simply not approve a follow-up application or refuse the funding, if awarded.

The statewide grant program, which leverages federal funds to help local law enforcement obtain and deploy body cameras, has been made available by a new law that the Texas Legislature passed in the spring and that went into effect in September.

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