Body camera lawsuit could go to Texas Supreme Court

Austin Police Department's plan to provide officers body cameras was in limbo for nearly a year because of a lawsuit. A court ruled in the city's favor in the spring, but KVUE has learned the case could now go to the Texas Supreme Court.

AUSTIN -- As Austin police gear up for their first rollout of body cameras in October, the lawsuit that prevented the department from implementing them in 2016 could cause more delays.

The Austin Police Department has been looking at adding body cameras since the end of 2015. By mid-2016, the city had a deal worked out with Taser (which has since changed its name to Axon) for $12 million. Utility, who also submitted a bid, asked the city to reevaluate the decision because their bid came in $3 million cheaper. When city leaders declined, Utility sued, accusing them of unfair bidding practices.

That litigation put a hold on the process until March 2017, when an appellate court found in the city's favor, allowing Austin to do business with Axon.

Instead of the original $12 million contract, city councilmembers chose to move forward with a more compact agreement with Axon for $4 million. That agreement allows for 724 cameras to be rolled out starting in October.

"The original plan was to roll out to our East substation first, which was around 260 cameras," explained APD Cmdr. Brent Dupre. "Then to our main station here, then to our South substation for the first year."

Within a few years, all officers should be equipped.

APD also has the equipment to place in vehicles, which would allow for automatic recording when an officer opens their door. That feature will be implemented when authorities find permanent replacements for their de-commissioned Ford Interceptor SUVs. Until then, officers will double tap a button on the front of the camera to activate recording.

IT crews are now building out the infrastructure needed to handle the new technology.

"We have to build up our back end, which is the computer system where these cameras will communicate with the cloud to store the videos," said Dupre.

Each of APD's substations -- as well as headquarters – will have the power, bandwidth and storage space these hundreds of body cameras require.

But this long-awaited plan could be halted once again. Utility filed an appeal with the Texas Supreme Court, according to Austin city officials. The court has yet to take up the matter.

KVUE has reached out to Utility for comment but has not heard back as of 7 a.m. Wednesday.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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