The state of Texas had several hundred new laws go into effect Tuesday, including Senate Bill 158, relating to a body-worn camera program for certain law enforcement agencies.
“Recent, high-profile police shootings have demonstrated the tremendous difficulties of determining crucial facts relating to use of force by police against members of the public,” reads the legislative wrap-up. “SB 158 establishes a statewide grant program through which Texas law enforcement agencies may apply for funding in order to equip their frontline officers with BWCs (body worn cameras).”
BWCs have been proven to decrease citizen complaints and the use of force incidents, according to the legislative wrap-up.
Using seized drug money, the Erath County Sheriff’s Office recently purchased and received 21 body cams, and training guidelines for a little more than $12,000.
“It’s better than what Dallas has paid so far,” Sheriff Tommy Bryant said. “They’ve paid over $1 million for 400 body cams, and they still need more.”
Bryant said they would have the possibility of putting SB 153 to use if, at some point, they need more. “It’s going to be so difficult for smaller agencies to be on the top priority with them,” Bryant said. “But I can certainly see where the bigger ones would be top priority because of the difference in crime level.”
By Autumn Owens
SB 158 by Sen. West, co-authored by Sen. Ellis
SB 158 promotes and expands the use of police officer body cameras, complete with proper checks and balances on their operation and accessibility. This legislation provides an opportunity for counties and municipalities to apply for grant funding to defray the cost of implementing a body camera program. Departments receiving grants will be required to provide a 25 percent match and will be subject to a policy and training requirements. With more police departments across the state adopting this common sense reform, SB 158 will provide a source of state grant funding and best practices for departments to consider adopting.