Cedar Park will purchase 105 body cameras and 64 in-car video units from Texas-based WatchGuard Video. Officers will begin training with the new systems this month.
The Cedar Park City Council approved $610,000 for the purchase of hardware, software and related maintenance services for the cameras at its June 28 meeting.
The new in-car video system is designed to work in tandem with the body cameras, replacing older technology dash cameras that have been in use since 2010.
“What this does is allows us to capture everything in an integrated, easily-searchable way and gives us a more streamlined way to be in compliance as it relates to keeping our video evidence together,” said Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix.
Mannix explained that the new system will make retrieving and transmitting video evidence to the county attorney and district attorney offices easier as well.
“It’s really one-stop shopping. Everything is contained, and it’s contained into the same evidence management software that becomes easily searchable,” said Mannix.
The current dash cameras are nearing the end of their life cycle and warranties are set to expire during this fiscal year, according to city documents. Additionally, body cameras have become a much-desired item among police departments, providing additional evidence and oversight of contacts with the public.
“More discussion has taken place, more legislation has taken place and, since then, there has been a drive for body cams,” said Mannix. “We have had a tremendous issue with being able to count on that equipment.”
The police department had to return several of its first-generation body cams but dealt with similar technological problems upon receiving the second-generation body cams, making the system unreliable.
Steve Smith, the city’s interim director of information services, said equipment from four different vendors was field tested for a month.
“That month was spent with officers in the field utilizing the product daily in their work activities. After evaluating the results and compiling the recommendations of field officers, WatchGuard was the one with the highest rating,” said Smith.
According to WatchGuard’s product description, the integrated system can use the different cameras on the scene to simultaneously capture an incident from multiple angles, “ensuring the entirety of the scene is available for review and analysis. When any camera in the system initiates a recording, the other cameras automatically sense a change in status and may begin recording based upon a configuration of pre-set criteria. Playback of captured video is synchronized in the Evidence Library 4 Web evidence management system and can be viewed simultaneously, hearing audio from the body camera while viewing video from the in-car system.”
City staff told council that funding for the purchase was lined from various sources, including the vehicle and equipment services fund, forfeiture fund, child safety fund and the police department’s general fund savings, which are all authorized for equipment and public safety purchases.
Mannix also liked the fact that WatchGuard Video is a Texas-based company, especially since the department experienced problems with its previous body camera equipment.
“When we have equipment issues, this is a Texas company with a robust inventory,” Mannix said.
Cedar Park police officers will commence WatchGuard’s systems training in July and finish by the end of September.