ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – At a town hall meeting to discuss the City of Arlington’s proposed 2016 budget, residents raised questions about one of the smaller expenditures. Arlington has allocated $50,000 for a pilot program that will allow the city to test out different police body camera technology for six months.
“It doesn’t seem to me like an awful lot of cameras. These things have been tested over and over again,” said a resident during the town hall meeting. “I don’t see why we can’t just purchase them now.”
Arlington City Manager Trey Yelverton explained that it is not a question of resources or dollars. The city just wants to select different vendors to test the products and see what works best. “This is really about making the right investment. There are a number of vendors that are out there that provide this technology,” Yelverton said.
The cameras could be deployed as early as mid-September, Yelverton added. That would allow the police department to test multiple vendors and products before ultimately making a recommendation to the city council.
No cameras captured what happened inside of a car dealership showroom in the early hours of August 7, when rookie police officer Brad Miller shot and killed 19-year-old Christian Taylor, an unarmed burglary subject.
“It’s important for all policemen to have body cameras. It’s important for their safety and citizens’ safety,” said Deborah Spell with the Arlington branch of the NAACP.
Arlington’s police chief discussed implementing this pilot program at a city council meeting back in June. At that meeting, he expressed privacy concerns that will have to be addressed. “Trying to safeguard people’s privacy. This is the introduction of a camera in a public place. Yes, they may have called the police, but they didn’t expect this to be recorded,” he explained.
During the Tuesday town hall meeting, Spell asked the city manager if the city had definitive plans to institute a body camera program once the pilot program was complete. Yelverton explained that, once the pilot program was finished, the city council would then have to consider whether to implement and authorize a body camera program. “We cannot afford not to have body cameras in Arlington,” Spell said.
Outside of City Hall, former Arlington City Council member Joe Bruner has started a small grassroots campaign to raise funds for the body cameras. “We’re at about $5,500 right now and we’ve got a long way to go,” he said. The effort started last Friday with a single Facebook post. Bruner said that his project is about unity and giving police the tools that they need to achieve accountability on all sides.