SAN ANTONIO – The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office presented findings of a body camera pilot program to county commissioners on Tuesday in the hopes of getting what it says is a better system for the department.
In August, KSAT reported about how Bexar County commissioners approved a request from Sheriff Javier Salazar to begin testing a new body camera system for deputies.
Salazar started his presentation by saying that, when the Sheriff's Office selected body camera vendor Utility two years ago, there were already red flags.
"There was no evidence of a field test being done," Salazar said. "There was no evidence of a contract, really only a purchase order. There was no evidence of an RFP (request for proposal).”
In December 2015, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office purchased more than 300 Android phone-based body cameras at a cost of more than $800,000. Salazar said only 42 were deployed.
Salazar's team on Tuesday presented findings from a new body camera system called Axon.
The Sheriff’s Office said Axon had a better camera view. The devices could transfer video evidence to the district attorney's office more efficiently, and the system was preferred by most first responders.
But Chris Lindenau, chief revenue officer of Utility Associates Inc., said on Tuesday that the sheriff's information was not accurate.
"The sheriff is about to throw away millions of dollars of investment in technology and is doing so on false pretenses,” Lindenau said.
County commissioners are asking the Sheriff's Office to provide more specific numbers regarding costs next week.
"We understand, and we got to have confidence in the sheriff that this is the better system," Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. "But we need to know what our cost is relative to what we already spent on."
In addition, Salazar wants to expand the program to the jail and is asking for 504 body cameras.
"The bulk of our uses of force are going to occur in our jail setting," Salazar said. "If we don't have cameras on those deputies in there, which wasn't the plan prior to my taking office, I think we're missing the boat."
Salazar's team showed commissioners that the original funds used to make the purchase in 2015 will be recovered via credit from Axon in the amount of $810,728. Additional cost savings will be realized via an 18-month replacement plan with a value greater than the remaining $75,761. A grant adjustment will be provided upon approval for the change in vendors.