Officers with the University of Texas Police Department have started using body cameras, the university said in a statement Thursday.
The university entered into a five-year contract worth $450,000 to buy body cameras and video storage space from Axon, the technology company formerly known as Taser International. UTPD Police Chief David Carter said the contract has been in the works since he came to the department in 2013.
“Some officers had already expressed an interest in looking at body-worn camera systems,” he said. “So we moved forward over the past couple of years trying to investigate what would be a workable solution for UTPD.”
Carter said officers would turn the body cameras on and off. Officers are expected to turn the cameras on while they’re in an enforcement capacity, such as responding to a call. But the officers will also be allowed to use discretion, such as turning off a camera when interviewing the victim of sexual assault.
Carter said video recordings will be stored for at least 90 days, per state law. If the recording is evidence in a case, it will be stored longer.
“At the end of the day, we really wanted these camera systems because they are something that promotes transparency,” Carter said. “They promote accountability.”
Officers with the Austin Police Department will also be getting body cameras soon. APD’s contract with a body camera company was held up by a court case that was recently dismissed. Although some officers bought and began wearing their own body cameras more than a year ago, all officers in the city should begin wearing body cameras in June.
“It’s basically the way of the future for all police departments, in some form or fashion, from across the country moving forward,” Carter said.