Fort Bend County has adopted a body camera policy for county-paid peace officers, but the sheriff and constables don’t have to abide by it.
County commissioners unanimously approved the policy during Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting.
County Attorney Bridgette Smith-Lawson told commissioners that elected law enforcement officials can accept or decline the policy.
Fagan, who championed body cameras when he campaigned for office, said his deputies would abide by the policy.
“I have no problem with the policy that you wrote because the policy that I have written is more stringent,” Fagan said. “(The county’s policy) is more of a guidance that we will follow.”
The policy states that it “does not supersede or remove the duty of officers to comply with other departmental procedures and obligations, nor does it supersede or remove the legal sphere of authority that an elected official of a law enforcement agency in Fort Bend County has to either accept or reject body-worn cameras and this policy.”
County Judge KP George lauded the policy as a way to bring accountability and transparency to law enforcement officers and residents.
He also said that the policy is in line with a national policy on body cameras.
“There have been national conversations about the use of body-worn cameras in law enforcement for a long time, and the death of George Floyd and a constable here in our community made passing the policy even more pressing,” George said in a statement.
“We want to protect our residents and law enforcement officers. It’s time to do the right thing, and hopefully, this will be the start of rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Last month, George proposed a body camera policy, but it was pulled from the agenda at the last minute after Precinct 2 Constable Daryl Smith and Precinct 3 Constable Chad Norvell expressed concerns about the policy, especially about the commissioners’ court being able to exert its authority over elected law enforcement leaders.
While the policy is in effect immediately, the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Office said that because the vendors for the body cameras have not been selected yet, there is no timetable available for when officers will begin wearing the cameras.
The policy was also created to get possible federal funding to purchase the body cameras. Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage mentioned that the policy could fade away when the funding expires.
“Once the funding runs out, we’re on the honor system,” Prestage said.