DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
BURNET — Burnet police officers are getting body cameras, thanks in part to a citizen who just wanted to help.
Burnet Police Chief Paul Nelson said a woman approached him several weeks ago regarding donating money to the department. At the time, she was interested in any needs of the department. Nelson spoke with her about body cameras and the department looking into contracting for at least one for each patrol officer and criminal investigators.
The week of Jan. 19, Stella Pelej again dropped by the department, but this time with a $4,000 check to help outfit the Burnet officers with body cameras.
Nelson said the donation will cover almost all of the first-year costs of about $4,700 for the contract. Under the contract, the department will receive 15 body cameras along with cradles. The next two years of the three-year contract is $4,500 annually. At the end of three years, the department can keep the current cameras or continue the contract with new cameras and warranties.
The department had been looking into the use of body cameras for some time, but Nelson said the situations in Ferguson, Missouri, and other places spurred the decision along with the donation.
While the patrol vehicles have dashboard cameras, the body cameras allow the videoing to continue if the officer moves out of view from the patrol vehicle.
“It will not replace the patrol car vehicle,” Nelson said. If a suspect flees from the officer, the patrol car camera can’t follow the pursuit. But the body cameras, being on the officer, allow supervisors to see what happened during the chase or any other interaction outside the range of the patrol vehicle.
“It’s not 100 percent,” Nelson said. “It’s another great tool for the patrol officers.”
Nelson said he expects the body cameras to come in during the next several weeks. During that time, the department is developing policies regarding the cameras and their use.
While body cameras were one of the things into which Nelson and the police department were looking, the donation helped speed up the process. The department will cover the remaining two years of the contract from its budget.
“Thank goodness for this citizen and that she believes in this department,” Nelson added.
Staff reporter Connie Swinney contributed to this report.