Kyle PD to upgrade equipment with new body cameras

Hays County is one of the fastest growing areas in Texas and with that population growth has come growth in their local police departments. Now one of them is making a major investment into strengthening their force.

Nobody will ever confuse the city of Kyle for the hustle and bustle of Austin.

But Kyle has certainly grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, seeing a population boom alongside other Hays county cities.

That increased population has led to an expanded police force, which needs more equipment to keep up with demand. 

"Regardless of the size of the department - I think just now, in today's world, with the technology out there - we should utilize as much of it as we can," said Captain Pedro Hernandez Jr.

He's now in his 21st year with the department and can speak firsthand to its growth. 

When he joined, he was the fifth member of the force. Now, there are 50 officers, a dispatch and records team. 

While the department has seen equipment upgrades over that time period, it's lagged behind that of many of other cities in Hays County. The issue became more evident last year, when they discovered an issue with their dashboard cameras. 

"We started coming across some problems with our current system as far as the recording of videos and the retention of videos and it was splitting videos without us knowing," Hernandez explained. 

That splitting created a headache for the District Attorney's Office and police, who were forced to manually go back and log the video.  

A new system is set to fix the issue while expanding their camera capabilities. 

Currently, only six officers - or 12 percent of the force - have body cameras.  

In the next couple of months, the department is set to equip all officers with body cameras, as well as upgrade their in-vehicle cameras and taser guns. 

"The body-worn cameras obviously moves with the police officer, and it will capture pretty much what the police officer is viewing at that time," Hernandez said. 

Right now, they spend about $69,000 annually on their equipment. The upgrades will run the cost to about $82,000 - including a $500 per vehicle installation fee. But the department believes despite the cost increase - which will go into effect for the next fiscal year - it will save officers valuable time, and better service the public. 

"This is beneficial to both sides. The officer and the citizen as well," Hernandez explained.  

Kyle becomes the final city in Hays County to move towards this new system, run by Arizona-based AXON. 

Lt. Andre Marmelejo helped lead the search and negotiations for the new equipment and consulted with other municipalities in the area. Hernandez said they had been discussing moving forward with the body cameras for about a year now. 

"I think the body-worn camera helps the officer capture better evidence for the prosecution of cases. And cameras in general, in dashboard cameras, in vehicles, have also allowed us to handle internal complaints or complaints from citizens. They are really effective in us reviewing the officer's activity," Hernandez said, adding they're also used for training. 

Police add since other local agencies use the system, they will be able to document and find information sooner. 

City officials are in the final timeline process with AXON to determine when the equipment will be fully implemented within the department. 

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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