SAN ANTONIO — Sheriff Javier Salazar wants to update Bexar County deputies’ body cameras, saying newer technology would feasibly make it easier for the agency to more quickly release footage of major incidents.
But the item needs to be voted on by county commissioners first.
“This equipment has to be upgraded regardless,” Salazar said Monday afternoon. “What we’re doing is stepping up and asking if this can be done right now."
In what he said was an ambitious but doable strategy, the sheriff said he'd like the Bexar County Sheriff's Office to be able to release body camera footage within 30 days. He added BCSO has been involved in conversations with Scottsdale-based security systems manufacturer Axon to equip deputies with technology which would simplify the task of redacting faces and license plates, cutting labor hours.
"Thereby drastically decreasing the time it would take to release the video," he said.
Salazar said they may not be able to honor that policy for each incident.
"Will there be a case here and there where we say we can't release it at the 30-day mark for whatever reason? Obviously. Then, I'll have some explaining to do in writing," he said.
Salazar said the deal currently on the table with Axon would cost about $9 million, and also provide BCSO with new Tasers. Salazar claims the deal with Axon could expire if commissioners don't act before Dec. 31, and the cost could increase up to $14 million.
Salazar says in total, the deal would provide 550 body cameras and 550 Tasers which would be issued to deputies, including some within the jail, and the fire marshal's office.
In a letter to commissioners, Sheriff Salazar claims that the item was timely submitted for the Dec. 7 commissioner's court meeting but says "it somehow failed" to make it onto the agenda and said it was pulled. According to Bexar County's public information officer, the item was never taken off the agenda.
However, the Office of Criminal Justice is set to make a presentation on the request to Bexar County Commissioners Court at Tuesday's meeting. Salazar said Axon representatives will also be there to answer questions.
But no action can be taken on the proposal until January at the earliest, and the price tag could increase before then, hence the sheriff's urgency.
"We're still not 100% sure that Axon is going to honor the price we were quoted several months back," he said.