A group of civil rights activists and community members is calling for more dashboard cameras, or dash cams, installed in Houston police vehicles.
"Only 5 percent of police cars in Houston have cameras on dashboards. That's outrageous," said Johnny Mata of the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice.
The coalition went before the Houston City Council Tuesday afternoon, following a Houston Chronicle report that showed Houston had dash cams in 5 percent of its vehicles. The report compared Houston's figures to other cities like Dallas, which has dash cams in about 55 percent of its police vehicles.
"These dash cams work to uncover both police misconduct, but also to protect the police from false accusations of excessive force. Basically, it's about the truth," said Houston attorney and coalition member Randall Kallinen.
The request for more cameras comes as the city changes its priority to body camera systems, which are worn by police officers. Houston Police Officers Union President Ray Hunt said the cost to outfit every officer on patrol would be around $8 million. He added the dash cams the coalition is requesting have been replaced by better technology and don't capture many confrontations because of their location.
"We're not opposed to that. But we'd rather have boots on the ground than technology that they're hoping to catch one or two situations so they can make a 'gotcha' situation," said Hunt.
The Houston Police Department released a statement Tuesday afternoon to address the issue: "In keeping with our stance of accountability to the public and transparency, we are in the process of implementing newer technology with the body camera system, of which approximately 100 have been deployed. Currently, our DWI patrol units are the only vehicles to have dash cams. However, as previously stated, the majority of incidents (more than 90%) occur away from the patrol vehicles and thus outside of view of the dash cams. Additionally, there are storage issues that make the continued use of dash cams not cost effective for the department."