Implementation of a body camera system for Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies stalled again after Bexar County Commissioners delayed a vote Tuesday that would have given the department permission to negotiate a new service contract for the cameras.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar wants to replace 550 body and dashboard cameras, which have been largely unused since they were purchased by the County for nearly $900,000 in 2015, with 754 new devices manufactured by Axon Enterprise. After field testing the existing system, Salazar said the department would prefer a replacement system.
“I am confident that this product that we’re asking you all to let us consider is the better product for our needs,” Salazar said. “I would stake my reputation on it.”
Commissioners ultimately decided that they did not have enough information on the cost of replacing the devices to take a vote.
“We got to have confidence in the Sheriff that [Axon] is the better system,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. “But we need to know what our cost is relative to what we’ve already spent.”
Assistant Chief Deputy James Serrato told Commissioners that implementation of the existing system stalled because deputies needed to burn video footage from the cameras onto DVDs in order to present it to prosecutors as evidence. He said that adding more cameras would have added more work for deputies who were already overworked.
However, Chris Lindenau, an official with camera system manufacturer Utility Associates, told Commissioners that this was not the case. He said that the Sheriff’s department made “false representations about the company,” putting the company’s livelihood at stake.
Utility disputed nearly all of the findings presented by the Sheriff’s department, and said that attempts to communicate with them were ignored. Salazar denied that the company’s requests for communication were ignored.
“This has degenerated so far into ‘he said, she said,’” said Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3). “Based on what I heard today, I’m not sure this process from the very beginning wasn’t messed up.”
The Sheriff’s department’s current body camera system was purchased while former Sheriff Susan Pamerleau was in office. Salazar became Sheriff after defeating Pamerleau in the November 2016 election.