This story originally appeared on KERA News.
Deputy Dallas police chief Andrew Acord says the $3.7 million camera program — which the City Council unanimously approved earlier this year — has been in the works for the past two years.
“This will enhance our opportunity to document critical incidents, it will enhance officer safety, it will enhance courtroom testimony, which we think will turn into more convictions,” Acord says.
Last year, President Obama pledged to give $75 million to police departments across the country to buy body cameras. Obama’s announcement came after months of protesting and unrest in Ferguson, Mo. Michael Brown’s death revealed a “simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color.” Obama has made it clear that the devices are “no panacea” and that they’d have to be “embedded in a broader change in culture and a legal framework.”
To help build more trust, the DPD will start by giving its central patrol division 55 cameras. Eight officers who have unspecified complaints filed against them will also be required to wear the cameras. The department will eventually continue phasing in the devices, batch by batch, to other units across the city until 1,000 are in place.
Acord says, at the beginning of their shifts, police will boot up their cameras. The devices will be on, but not necessarily recording.
“Basically, the protocol is that we’re going to activate the body camera in all citizen interactions with a law enforcement purpose,” Acord says. “If they do not turn the camera on, they will be required to state why.”
This roll out coincides with a new Texas law that took effect yesterday. The bill, sponsored by Dallas state senator Royce West offers $10 million in grant money for police body cameras.