Arlington City Council approves 350 body-worn cameras for police officers

Arlington police soon will join other departments around the country that have deployed body cameras to record interactions with the public.

But you might not notice the devices.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a three-year, $1.47 million contract for 350 miniature cameras that will be embedded in police uniforms, revealing only a quarter-size lens opening and appearing roughly in the center of the chest.

Police officials preferred the smaller style because it would be less obtrusive and more stable.

“Cameras tend to fall off during physical confrontations,” said Will Velasco, senior purchasing agent for the city.

A $225,000 state grant is supplementing the funding for the three-year program, which includes the cameras, video-editing and other hardware, along with a data storage service, software licenses, installation and training.

Once contract negotiations are completed, the first cameras would be deployed in the fall and the rest during the first quarter of next year, said Brett Dove, research and development manager of the police department. Officers will wear 300 of the cameras; 50 will be backups.

Arlington police completed a six-month pilot study early last year in which they sampled a variety of body cams. The project followed the fatal shooting of a young, unarmed black man by a white Arlington officer during a burglary investigation at a car dealership. It was among a string of officer-involved shootings that sparked a national debate and helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement.

One way many major police departments across the country have responded is by using body cameras to document violent encounters and help improve community relations.

Proposed hotel

The council gave unanimous first-round approval to a zoning change for a development headlined by a nine-story, 268-room Drury Plaza hotel in the city’s entertainment district.

The Drury Plaza — the Drury Development Corp.’s highest-end brand — is part of a two-phase development planned for construction in the southwest corner of the Interstate-30/Center Street intersection.

A standalone restaurant would be part of the first phase. A 39,600-square-foot office or retail building would be the second phase.

A second vote is required for final approval.

The council backed the proposal as presented, despite staff concerns that some requirements under special entertainment-district zoning were not met. Among those, the in-hotel restaurant would not serve lunch and would have no concierge or room service.

Some council members pushed for a time frame for construction of the second-phase building, but Drury officials said the market would have to rule. They said other Drury Plazas have sparked quick, quality development.

“It doesn’t do us any good to leave that land vacant,” said Drury President and CEO Chuck Drury, who promised the company would be “actively involved” in spurring development.

New council member

Roxanne Thalman, who narrowly won a June 10 runoff election to replace outgoing District 3 Councilman Robert Rivera, was sworn in at the meeting.

Mayor Jeff Williams noted that Thalman’s election tips the gender balance of the council to a 5-4 female majority, which he called a first in recent memory.

Robert Cadwallader: 817-390-7186, @Kaddmann_ST.

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