Fort Worth

More Fort Worth patrol officers getting body cameras

Fort Worth police officer Jeff Garwacki demonstrates the Axon Body Camera being worn by officers.
Fort Worth police officer Jeff Garwacki demonstrates the Axon Body Camera being worn by officers. Star-Telegram archives

The City Council on Tuesday approved outfitting 198 more Fort Worth police officers with body cameras and microphones with equipment maker Taser International.

The purchase increases to nearly 800 the number of Taser’s Axon Flex body cameras the city will own. Under its contract with the city, Taser provides camera software and stores captured video at a secure online site. That contract expires in 2017.

The council voted 8-0 to approve the purchase. Councilman Sal Espino was absent.

The city will spend an additional $698,575 over the next three years on the purchase and management of all the department’s cameras, bringing the total five-year contract with Taser to $3.4 million. The cameras cost a little less than $700 each, but most of the costs to the city are for storing data.

Fort Worth has about 1,589 sworn officers. The city owns 595 cameras, a report said, and its contract with Taser allows it to buy 1,200.

Assistant City Manager Valerie Washington said the city plans to have all officers wearing cameras. And, with this purchase, she said, “We’re getting pretty close to meeting that.”

Washington said, though, Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald is currently reviewing all the department’s technology and equipment, including the Taser products.

Fort Worth was an early adopter of body cameras. The program started with a test in 2010 and has expanded annually. The cameras are used to help clear up residents’ complaints against police officers.

Fort Worth's videos are stored on Evidence.com, a cloud-based system. Officers cannot tamper with, delete or edit the video, and Taser technicians do not have access to the footage.

The city first bought about 200 cameras from Taser in 2013 and a year later bought 400 more.

This year, that 2014 purchase contract came into question after allegations that former Chief Jeffrey Halstead may have violated ethics policies and that his relationship with the company influenced the city decision to buy from Taser.

The city has denied there was any influence. Halstead retired in January. Washington said Fitzgerald has no connection to Taser.

“We’ve been pleased with the Taser product,” Washington said. “We’re getting what we need out of it.”

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