With League City City Council’s approval Dec. 8, League City police officers will soon be required to wear body cameras, which will protect the officers and promote greater officer accountability to residents, officials said.

Council’s vote allowed the city to enter into a five-year agreement, over which the city will pay Axon $1.24 million total for 127 body cameras for officers, dash camera systems for patrol vehicles and camera systems for the interview rooms at the League City Public Safety Building.

Officers from the League City Police Department expressed interest in 2018 in having body cameras to protect themselves as tensions rose nationwide over police use of force. From June 2018 to April 2019, department employees began researching the use of body cameras, according to a city memo.

In their research, employees discovered LCPD was the only department in the surrounding area not using body cameras, per the memo.

“Peer-reviewed body-worn camera studies demonstrated the capability to improve police/community relations through increased transparency and accountability,” the memo reads. “Body-worn cameras also have a noticeable impact on use-of-force incidents and citizen complaints, which could protect the agency from costly litigation. Body-worn cameras aid in evidence collection, prosecution, help mitigate citizen complaints and improve police legitimacy.”

In May, City Council approved the department's application for a $186,000 grant to help cover the $1.24 million cost of the cameras. The city failed to acquire the grant but will try again next year through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, according to the memo.

Axon worked with League City to amend the contract and restructure the payment process of the five-year term so that the first- and second-year costs reflect lower expenses, as if the department had received the grant. Excess funding has been moved to later years of the program, the memo reads.

Council members praised Chief Gary Ratliff and his staff for working so long and hard on this project.

“They put a lot of effort into researching this,” Council Member Nick Long said. “I’m glad there is buy-in from the officers as well. I think it will serve the officers well and, of course, serve the citizens of League City well.”

Millican said he appreciated Ratliff working with Axon to amend the contract when the city failed to acquire the grant.

Mayor Pro Tem Hank Dugie said the cameras will provide extra transparency to residents.

“We really do have one of the best police forces in the state—probably, even, the country—and it’s because we hold our officers to a higher standard,” he said.

Ratliff said he took the whole process very seriously, especially considering the cost. He said he hopes the cost will eventually be lowered with successful grant applications, he said.