SAN ANTONIO — After a tense debate, the Bexar County Commissioners Court took what some call a historic step in drastically reducing the deadline for Sheriff Javier Salazar to release body camera video of incidents involving deputies.
Commissioners unanimously approved a change that would require the agency to release video 10 days after an incident occurs, but some amendments were added.
The policy change also adds two video librarian positions to the sheriff’s office to manage video evidence. If video can’t be released, the sheriff’s office would have to provide a written explanation as to why.
After the meeting, which left both sides feeling confused at times, county commissioners and the sheriff say this gets them closer to being more transparent with the public.
“We made history today…instead of being behind, we stepped up and did what big counties and big cities do,” Commissioner Tommy Calvert told KENS 5.
The item of discussion started with the Office of Criminal Justice proposing a change to the time for body camera video release to be set at 60 days after an incident, mirroring SAPD’s policy. Commissioners wanted to take it a step further.
Commissioner Trish DeBerry made the proposal to reduce the time to 10 days after an incident. On Monday, Salazar asked for a 30-day release policy in his technology request.
“I would like to see Bexar County lead the way,” DeBerry said during the meeting.
The 10-day period was eventually approved after Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores added an amendment to the policy, giving BCSO its two video librarian positions to handle the changes.
“When you go from having a not really good policy to 10 days without having the financial support for the technology and the staff, that’s an ingredient for failure,” Clay-Flores said.
According to the county, the sheriff will have to come back later to request funding for new body cameras and Tasers; Salazar said Monday that the security systems manufacturer Axon offered a $9 million deal for hundreds of new pieces of upgraded equipment.
Salazar says he will try to achieve the policy goals set by commissioners.
“I’m going to try and work with [the commissioners] what’s being asked of me. But I do take exception for them withholding lifesaving equipment from my troops,” he said.
DeBerry disagrees with that sentiment.
“I don’t have any problem funding equipment for the rank and file. Obviously, they need tools at their disposal to do their job, but I didn’t like the court being held hostage over funding the equipment,” she said.
It’s unclear at what point the policy change takes effect.
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