Chief seeks funding for body cameras
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – Dash cam video exonerated a police officer accused on social media of abusing a homeless man, Police Chief John Blair told City Council members at a Jan. 16 study session.
“A lady put a Facebook post saying one of our officers was harassing a homeless veteran she had given a coffee,” Blair said. “(She said) our officer showed up, threw the coffee into the roadway, slammed him up against the police car, ripped his jacket off, dumped his backpack out and dumped all of his belonging on the ground, and left when he couldn’t find anything wrong with him.”
Blair said a video of the entire encounter from an in-car dash cam shows that the officer didn’t touch the man.
“He didn’t have a jacket on, he didn’t have a coffee,” Blair said. “Nothing in (the posting) was accurate other than our officer did speak to the homeless man who had on fatigues.”
To view the video, go to vimeo.com/250703159. To read the city’s press release, go to cityoftaylor.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=421.
Blair said the officer did nothing wrong, and the Facebook posting was totally fictitious.
Blair also said he hopes the city can budget for body cams for all of the city’s police officers.
“We have addressed a number of issues that we feel are shortfalls in the budget,” he said.
Blair said he is a strong proponent of body cameras.
“I really think it does a lot of good things,” Blair said. “We don’t have body cams (now). We have tested a few models over the years.
“Last year, in 2017, we did have a couple guys test them, and we liked what they were doing. Data retention – retaining all that video – is an issue. We have software issues with that, and of course the purchase price for each one of the cameras for the officers.”
Blair said Taylor has just less than 40 officers on road patrol, and he would like to acquire 35 to 40 body cameras. He said body cameras range from $1,200 to $5,000 each, depending on make, model and software for record retention.
He said a lot of cities in the area are moving toward the use of body cameras.
“We are hoping to get grant funding,” Blair said. “The government wants to hold police officers accountable, yet they want to be able to protect us from these frivolous and fictitious complaints.”
Blair said he has not applied for any grants.
“If you can come up with $40,000 for us, we’ll be really happy,” Blair said.
Councilman Herman “Butch” Ramik said during the study session that he hopes the city council will seriously consider body cameras after noting the benefits of police car dash cams.
“Body cams are also going to be a big deal, because when (officers) get away from that car, it is going to be so important to protect the officer for what he is doing once he has to get away from the car,” Ramik said. “I think that we should do everything we can to find the money to do that for the protection of the officers, because we are seeing more and more problems.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)