Austin Police Department considers adding body worn cameras to officers

(ABC 6 News) – The Austin Police Department does not own body cameras, and they do not have a specific timeline for when they are getting them. However, Police Chief David McKichan said they’d welcome the addition.

There are a couple reasons the department doesn’t have them yet. The cameras themselves will cost the city money, and will have to be worked into the budget approved by the city council. The city will also have to employ someone to go through the body camera data and communicate with the county attorney’s office.

"It does come with some pretty hefty statutes and how to follow those laws," Austin Mayor Steve King said.

State law regulates who can access body camera video and when the public can request it. Both McKichan and King believe the police department and the city council overwhelmingly support getting them.

"This is something that as mayor, council, city administrator and as a department we certainly are looking forward to and we’ve made those investigative pieces to be able to hopefully move to it in a budget cycle soon," McKichan said.

The city has looked into how much the cameras could cost, but because the city council already approved the 2022 budget there’s a chance we won’t see body cameras in the Austin Police Department until 2023.

"It is going to be a cost that the taxpayers will bear, but it’ll be what’s right for the community," King said.

In the meantime, officers all wear body microphones that are always on — recording audio The department uses squad car cameras that run on every case.

"So whatever type of call we’re on we do require officers activate and wear that system. That, at a minimum, will record the audio of any encounter they’re on," McKichan said.

There is an initiative by Governor Walz to ensure all state law enforcement wear body cameras — such as the state patrol and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension — as of now local police departments and sheriff’s offices are not required to have them.