Cole to Council

Buy the Dash-Cams Already

City Council Member Sheryl Cole is urging replacement of the Austin Police Depart­ment's antiquated dashboard camera recorders. Already a public sore point, the issue has garnered additional recent relevance in the aftermath of the shooting death of teenager Nathaniel Sanders II by APD Officer Leonardo Quintana and police chief Art Acevedo's eventual disciplining of Quintana for failing to record the fatal incident.

Cole held a press conference Monday, flanked by unlikely if not strange bedfellows: civil rights leaders including NAACP Austin Presid­ent Nelson Linder and pastor Joseph Park­er, but also Austin Police Association Presid­ent Wayne Vincent. All parties called for the city to take action on replacing the current dash-cam system, which records to videocassettes and must be manually activated, with a more reliable and automatic digital system. In the aftermath of Sanders' shooting this spring, City Manager Marc Ott tasked the APD and the city's Communications and Tech­nology Management department with examining different video systems. Now, Cole says, it's time for the city to act. "I am urging the city manager to quickly bring forward a proposal that they've already started working on for a digital camera system," Cole says, calling the situation one that "pulls at the very fabric of our community. When you have a rift between law enforcement and the community they serve, you need to act with all deliberate speed, because that situation should not fester. I want the recommendations to come forth quickly, and I want council to quickly address it. That's what leadership is."

With a tight city budget recently adopted and a new camera system costing millions of dollars, expense is an issue. And for so large a purchase, City Council approval is required. Cole anticipates a combination of funding mechanisms, including amassing already budgeted amounts, grant funding, and new spending. She also hopes for council action within the next three to four weeks. "It's absolutely essential that we maintain trust between our public safety officials and the community they serve," Cole says. "Digital cameras are no silver bullet for all our complex social issues between police and the community. However, it is a necessary tool to help pull our community together."

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