The Houston Police Department plans to outfit an additional 143 patrol vehicles with dashboard cameras, aiming to boost transparency and officer accountability during traffic stops, investigations and responses to calls for service, Police Chief Troy Finner said Thursday.
About half of the department’s 1,160 patrol vehicles used for tasks that would warrant a dashboard camera are currently equipped with one, an HPD spokesperson said. All patrol officers are outfitted with body-worn cameras.
Finner said the department will use about $2 million in funding allocated by Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office to pay for the new dashboard cameras. A spokesperson for Turner said the decision to add more cameras was made in the past week or two.
“We do believe in transparency,” Finner said, adding that the department would enact “anything that we can do to move in that direction.”
Finner’s announcement followed a report by the Houston Chronicle that said only 15 percent of HPD’s squad cars are equipped with dash cams. Finner said the article “didn’t take into account that we don’t equip cameras, dash cams, on investigative vehicles.”
HPD employs about 250 vehicles equipped with lights and sirens that do not need dashboard cameras. Some of those cars are used for training purposes or attending community events.
Another 1,800 unmarked vehicles used by investigators and undercover officers are not equipped with dashboard cameras and will not be outfitted as part of the new initiative.
In 2020, the Mayor’s Task Force on Policing Reform recommended the agency invest in dashboard cameras for all police cars, citing a study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police that found that dashboard cameras boost police professionalism and reduce civilian complaints.
Dashboard cameras can be particularly useful in cases that start with a traffic stop, allowing defense lawyers to examine whether the initial contact with defendants was lawful.
Finner declined to provide a specific timeline for installation of the new dashboard cameras. The new equipment will be installed “as quickly as funding comes,” Finner said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to cite an earlier Houston Chronicle report about dash cams that Finner addressed at the news conference.