Pearland, Friendswood police to implement body camera programs

Last year, the 84th Texas Legislature made it easier for police officers to record their interactions with the public through the use of body-worn cameras.

Legislators passed Senate Bill 158 last June, which provided a grant program for funding and allows each police department statewide to establish program guidelines that are tailored to the needs of their communities. Officials with the Pearland and Friendswood police departments said the legislation will enable both groups to upgrade their recording capability, which now is limited to dash cameras and handheld devices.

Both departments are in the process of submitting final grant applications and expect to receive word on funding from the Criminal Justice Division of the governor’s office by July 15, officials said. 

Pearland, Friendswood police to implement body camera programs Pearland, Friendswood police to implement body camera programs[/caption]

Pearland Police Department

In January, Pearland officials learned the city would be eligible for approximately $137,800 in grant funding, resulting in a minimum of 70 cameras. Grant coordinator Joel Hardy said Pearland is purchasing
78 body-worn cameras with grant funds, along with the requisite data management equipment and software to meet storage requirements.

Although a 25 percent funding match—an estimated $27,500—is required, the city is investing an additional $41,112 to purchase
36 more body cameras for a total of 114, officials said.

“The total price for all scheduled body camera purchases is $130,188, which will provide a camera for each front-line officer on the force at this time,” Hardy said.

Pearland officials estimate each camera will cost approximately $1,140.

Friendswood Police Department

Friendswood City Council approved the application for funding May 2. Friendswood Police Department Public Information Officer Lisa Price said the department is estimating each complete camera system—which includes a camera, docking station, power supply, clip, mic cables, USB charging cable and one-year warranty—will cost approximately $500. The low cost is attributed to the city working with the same vendor that sold vehicle-mounted cameras to Friendswood, she said.

“Using vendor [L-3 Mobile Vision] significantly decreases the cost of the program because all of the back office equipment—servers and software—is compatible with the vehicle-mounted cameras,” Price said.

Friendswood is seeking to utilize 45 body-worn cameras, which accounts for 74 percent of its 61 total sworn officers, Price said.

The $25,500 program budget covers 45 complete camera systems, four to six unit charging systems, a 24-port switch and Ethernet cables as well as remote professional services for set up.

The cost is worth removing the video and audio limitations posed by vehicle-based video camera systems, Price said. As it stands, police-citizen encounters following a traffic stop are the only situations that are recorded.

Police-citizen relationship

Both police departments expect the new body-worn camera programs to improve successful prosecution ratings as well as community relations, which State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, previously said is the main intention of the bill he co-sponsored.

“The police-citizen encounters that occur while patrolling away from the officer’s patrol vehicle are not captured by the traditional, front-facing, vehicle-mounted video camera, which results in a loss of valuable video and audio evidence as well as a gap in public transparency,” Price said. “Not capturing such valuable video and audio evidence can result in failed prosecutions, but more so it can negatively impact community relations and make the department’s job of supervising officers and investigating officer complaints more difficult.”

Price also said the improved recording capabilities would enhance the department’s ability to review probable cause for arrest, officer and suspect interactions, evidence for investigative and prosecutorial purposes and provide additional information for officer evaluation and training.

Hardy said body-worn cameras also ensure all parties involved conduct themselves in ways that promote integrity and proper conduct.

Officials from both departments said officers would be the sole source for activation of cameras, under certain guidelines, and citizens would be able to obtain a copy via an open records request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.

Since the departments are able to formulate their own policies for usage, Pearland officers will be required to wear the body camera during their entire shift. However, Hardy said the Pearland Police Department provided a set of parameters for when, where and why body-worn surveillance may be temporarily turned off for the purposes of officer safety, preserving battery life and usefulness.

Hardy said cameras may need to be temporarily disabled because lights and other indicators may hamper an officer’s ability to enter a crime-scene where tactical entry is required to investigate or capture an assailant.

Friendswood police officers will determine when to use their cameras.

If a body-worn camera is activated, it must remain on until the interaction is complete in order to ensure the integrity of the recording, unless the contact moves into an area restricted by policy, Price said.

“In locations where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a residence, they may decline to be recorded unless the recording is being made pursuant to an arrest or search of the residence or the individuals,” she said.



Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Homes priced above $750,000, such as this one in the Heights, saw a surge in sales in March, with almost twice as many properties sold. (Courtesy Houston Association of Realtors)
Average Houston single-family home price jumps 20% in March

The average sale price for a home in March was $370,847.

League City will give up nearly 30 acres of land to Friendswood in exchange for some of the property tax revenue generated by the move after League City City Council’s unanimous vote April 13. (Courtesy city of League City)
League City agrees to land swap with Friendswood

League City will give up nearly 30 acres of land to Friendswood in exchange for some of the property tax revenue generated by the move after League City City Council’s unanimous vote April 13.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said power outages are not expected April 13, while requesting energy conservation. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: ERCOT call for energy conservation ends April 13 without need for power outages

An ERCOT official said "tight" supply and demand conditions arose on the state's electric grid April 13 due to forecasting issues amid planned, seasonal maintenance outages by some power generators.

Spearheaded by state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, the new court, if established, would expand the capacity of the county's criminal court system in hopes of reducing its backlog, which stood at 70,951 total cases pending before criminal district courts in Harris County as of April 8. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harris County supports creation of new criminal district court to tackle case backlog

If the efforts are successful, this would be Harris County's first new criminal district court since 1984 when the 351st District Court was created.

Friendswood ISD's board of trustees discussed the possibility of offering in-person learning only for the 2021-22 school year. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Friendswood ISD discusses offering in-person learning only in 2021-22 school year

Reasons for going forward without virtual learning include the desire to improve social, emotional and hands-on learning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended health providers pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
State, federal health authorities recommend pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 rare, severe blood clots

Hub providers in Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have all announced they will follow the recommendations and pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Patti Ashcraft has been the owner of That Vinyl Store since she purchased the business in October 2019. (Photos by Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)
Small crafting business That Vinyl Store aims to lift up Friendswood community

In Friendswood, That Vinyl Store not only sells vinyl and vinyl T-shirts, but it also supports other local businesses, owner Patti Ashcraft said.

2314 Piney Woods Drive sold in Pearland in December. (Courtesy the Houston Association of Realtors)
Homes sales down in 3 Pearland, Friendswood-area ZIP codes in February

Fewer homes were sold in three local ZIP codes in 2021 compared to 2020.

Armored Sports camps feature basketball, flag football and more. (Courtesy Pexels)
Armored Sports camps to launch in venues across Greater Houston

A new Christian sports camp for youth is launching this summer in churches across the Greater Houston area.

"Breaking Strongholds" is a faith-based, eight-episode series that explores topics such as suicide and depression. (Courtesy Terry Weaver)
Series shot in Montgomery County aiming for Hulu, Netflix deal and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

With little discussion April 5, Friendswood City Council voted in favor of a resolution to show support for House Bill 3029, the passage of which would result in the creation of a taxing entity to help fund the operation of the proposed coastal barrier. (Community Impact staff)
Friendswood joins League City in supporting creation of Gulf Coast Protection District

With little discussion April 5, Friendswood City Council voted in favor of a resolution to show support for House Bill 3029, the passage of which would result in the creation of a taxing entity to help fund the operation of the proposed coastal barrier.