Bexar County commissioners to vote on body worn camera funding increase

If approved, the five year contract with Axon would increase from $6.3 million to $9.4 million

SAN ANTONIO – Commissioners are calling for quick release and transparency with body camera videos.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar says he’ll need more funding in order to make that happen on the 10-day deadline set by commissioners.

“If we’re able to get some of this technology on our side, some of these upgrades on our side, I’d like to get to the 10 days,” Salazar said on January 24th. He declined to speak with KSAT Monday, wanting to hold comment until after the commissioner’s meeting.

The technology mentioned would be upgraded body cameras and improved editing software to redact faces or license plates from videos that are released.

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert says the additional funding isn’t necessary.

“I looked at the contract. Our contract already included an upgrade to the latest version of the Axon body camera,” Calvert, commissioner of precinct 4 said.

It allows them to use the “lightning” speed of the redaction technology displayed on Axon’s website.

“So what they were really asking for at the sheriff’s department were new tasers,” Calvert said. “They were asking for virtual training software.”

In a letter written Friday, Calvert wrote “the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department is seeking Axon’s OSP 7+ system which includes new tasers, the Axon Body 3, Axon VR Training, and Auto- Transcribe.”

Sheriff Salazar did mention the need to upgrade their tasers on the 24th but said Axon would offer a discount.

“What we’re doing is we’re just looking to, to accelerate that replacement process and save ourselves some money in the process,” Salazar said.

At their meeting Tuesday, county commissioners will decide whether or not to grant the sheriff’s request for additional funding.

If so, instead of $6,376,756 over five years for the current contract, it’ll be increased to $9,441,514.

“I think it’ll probably pass, but I’m not sure that it’s a wise decision to. I don’t think without the assurance that we’re going to get it in 10 days,” Calvert said.

That 10-day release after a critical incident has been a real sticking point. The sheriff says 30 days at this point is more feasible until they can work down to 10 days.

Other surrounding departments follow a similar timeline.

Austin Police Department releases video after 10 days, and Dallas Police Department releases video 72 hours after a critical incident.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.