After months of delay, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office may be nearing a decision on the body and dashboard cameras with which it plans to equip its sheriff’s deputies.
The County has been trying for years to deploy body-worn and dashboard cameras. The use of body cameras became a priority after two deputies fatally shot 41-year-old Gilbert Flores in 2015. The deputies were not wearing body cameras, and County Commissioners added funding to purchase dashboard and body cameras to the County’s 2016 budget.
Commissioners pushed back a vote in February to allow the sheriff’s office to negotiate a new contract with Axon, then voted in March to restart the process of choosing a vendor. The department had purchased 300 cameras from competing company Utility for about$900,000 in 2015 during U.S Marshal Susan Pamerleau’s tenure as sheriff. In February, Sheriff Javier Salazar told commissioners his department had internally tested 100 Axon cameras and preferred those to Utility cameras. The sheriff’s office is retesting Axon and for the first time trying out Watchguard’s equipment in this formal bidding process.
In March, the County manager’s office estimated a 10-year contract with Axon would cost up to $8.3 million. Bexar County purchasing agent Mary Quinones said she was unable to provide any updated estimates, as the bidding process is still ongoing.
Axon and Watchguard were among four companies interviewed for a body camera bid, Quinones said. Both would provide technology for 16-day trials, and the demonstrations would include 15 body-worn cameras, four vehicle camera systems, ongoing support systems, and on-site training, she said.
“The provided equipment will be used for trial and evaluation purposes for 16 days, with no cost to the County,” Quinones said.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff asked for a more defined timeline on choosing a company.
“How much longer are we going to drag this out?” Wolff asked.
Quinones told him each vendor had 16 days to showcase its equipment, but because of the holiday season, demonstrations would not start until January. Salazar said the department would make a recommendation after testing both vendors’ products.
“In the interest of expediency, I’m ready for these cameras to be [out in the field], and I think we owe it to the public to get these cameras out as soon as we can,” Salazar said.
“Do your demonstration,” Wolff said. “Let’s make a decision.”