On the same day that a Dallas County grand jury refused to indict two Dallas police officers for the shooting of Jason Harrison, a shooting that was captured on one of the officer's body cameras, the Texas State Senate approved a program that would allow cops around the state to wear the cameras.
The camera that filmed the Harrison shooting was one purchased as part of a pilot program concluded last October that put 50 body cameras in the field. Those cameras continued to be used after the program ended, and Dallas Police Chief David Brown promised to add 200 more in 2015.
The proposal approved Thursday, made by Dallas' Royce West, would provide grant money for law enforcement agencies willing to put up 25 percent of the costs for new cameras. Unlike a similar proposed bill in the Texas House, West's plan would not require agencies to buy the cameras.
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"We want to provide protection for our police officers. But we also want to make sure we protect our citizens from the abuse that a few officers inflict on them," West said Thursday. "We must restore credibility and trust in our law enforcement agencies."
Under West's setup, any agency that wants to use body cameras would be required to develop a policy for when and how the cameras should be deployed. Ideally, according to West, those policies would head off privacy and open records concerns, two of the biggest issues raised by body cameras.
West said that he intends to find $10 million in the state budget to cover some of the costs of helping law enforcement get the cameras.