Austin police will replace antiquated dashboard cameras that have sometimes remained off during police shootings, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Yesterday, the city council approved $15.5 million for new cameras and digital equipment that will activate the cameras under several scenarios, including when officers open their patrol car doors. The police department said the investment would help in gathering evidence and building trust with the community.
Officials hope to have cameras in all patrol cars by spring 2012 . The equipment will be covered by bonds that do not require voter approval and are paid off with tax dollars. Police had been considering replacing the dashboard cameras, which use VHS tapes, for several years, but the idea took a back seat to other budget priorities. In June 2009 – about a month after the fatal police shooting of Nathaniel Sanders II – police officials began studying video technology used by other departments across the country. Then-senior officer Leonardo Quintana, who shot Sanders, had not activated his camera and was suspended for 15 days for violating a policy requiring officers to record stops. He has since been fired after a drunken driving arrest.