GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Body cameras are just as common as the pistols Georgetown police officers carry on their hip. In fact, police are required to wear them when they’re out on duty, and officers have been wearing body cameras since 2014.
“It’s about accurate record collection, when we’re out there on the street, there are so many things that happen,” explains Captain Roland Waits with the Georgetown Police Department. “Sometimes if an officer comes back and they don’t have the ability to review the video, they might miss some details, some things that were said.”
The body cameras have external microphones so they can pick up everything an officer is saying.
KXAN tagged along with officers when they first started wearing the cameras, and showed you a video of a person who was pulled over for a headlight that was out. During the interaction with the Georgetown police officer, the driver was recorded saying, “This is why you guys are pieces of [expletive.] Give me the [expletive] thing and I’ll sign it.”
Georgetown police say the man pulled over later filed a complaint against the officer, claiming he was being belligerent.
“Internal investigators can take a look at it, and can quickly dispel whatever allegations that are being made against an officer,” explains Cpt. Waits.
While the cameras have been mostly a success, they do come with some challenges. “If you get out there and you get involved in a skirmish or whatever, they have a tendency to get popped off your uniform or get dropped,” said Waits.
The body cameras also take up a lot of storage. Georgetown PD saves all footage indefinitely. Waits says they eventually clear the servers and save all video to disks. But officers say it’s worth it.
“We’re in a very multimedia era to where everybody has cameras and everybody is pushing things out,” explains Waits. “I think it’s critical for a department to have.”
Some police departments will slowly phase in body cameras. Georgetown PD says all 78 of its police officers got the cameras at the same time, which cost the department $100,000. Storing the footage does not cost the department any money since the city bought its own server.
In 2014, there were three sustained complaints out of four filed against the Georgetown Police Department. The department says two of three were from an incident where a fired Georgetown police officer was caught on video tripping students.
In 2015, there were no citizen complaints. In 2016, there were three sustained out of 13 filed complaints, and so far this year, there have been three sustained complaints out of 14 filed.