NPD Chief aims to add body cameras to patrol officers

Published 9:22 pm Friday, July 10, 2015

Annual summer budget workshop leads to more than money talks

NEDERLAND — City Manager Chris Duque said a financial budget is much more than a way to monitor, and restrict, spending. It’s a record of progress.

It’s the unofficial motto he wants each city department head to keep in mind as they present their goals for the upcoming year. Their proposed budgets for the financial year, which starts over Oct. 1, are to serve as their starting point for how they intend to move the city forward.

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Nederland Police Chief Darrell Bush said he used the city’s annual summer budget workshop — hosted by Nederland City Council in the Marion & Ed Hughes Public Library this week — to request for six body cameras for his Patrol Division to share.

“A lot of police departments are looking to buy these body cameras now, because they go a long way in protecting the citizens, as well as the police,” Bush said Thursday. “If someone comes into the department with a complaint against an officer, we can pull up the video and see what happened. There’s no more, ‘He said, she said.’ It’s all on camera.”

Bush said he’s reviewing body camera policies in other police departments so that he can write official guidelines for his officers. He said he knows the officers will put them on when they start their shifts and return them to a charging dock once the shift ends, but he wants to know more about how other police departments handle privacy issues before sending any of his patrol officers out with a camera strapped to their uniforms.

“If we get them, we’ll incorporate hands-on training and educate all of our officers on the policy guidelines before anyone walks out with a camera attached,” Bush said. “But the ones I’m looking at should be fairly easy to use, because they’re compatible with the cameras we currently have in our police cars.”

Bush said if the cameras are approved for the new budget year, he intends to buy them at the beginning of October. He said all six cameras would cost the police department about $5,000.

Duque said the city’s annual summer budget workshop kicked off several positive conversations this week. As each department head met with City Council, he said, the topics often strayed beyond the straightforward “money” talk.

“The purpose of our budget workshop is for all of our department heads to submit their proposed budgets and explain what they’re asking for. It’s a very extensive conversation, talking about how we’re going to move forward,” Duque said Thursday. “But the format allows the City Council to enter a very free and open discussion with each one.

“It’s not like in a regular City Council meeting where you have a set agenda to talk about and you can’t stray from that list. They can ask their questions with the staff right there, and they don’t have to stick to just talking about money. They about anything, really, because it can all tie back into the budget. It’s more like a brainstorming session.”

Duque said the casual style allows each department to openly share “visions” for the future. He said his goal with the workshop is for departments to think beyond the immediate fiscal year.

“I was a department head before I came here (in fall 2008). I know what it’s like to go through this budget process from the other side,” Duque said. “So when they come into this workshop I want them thinking about their vision for the next two years and the next five. I want to know what they need in their departments to make those visions happen. It lets our department heads talk about where they want their departments to go, not just during this budget year but in the future.”

Duque said the budget used for the summer workshop is strictly a “working document.” The city won’t receive new tax rates from the county until August, he said, so none of the numbers discussed are “locked in.”

“Once we get our official tax information from the county, we can make those final adjustments and say, ‘This is how much revenue we will have’ to work with,” he said. “At that point, we can present the budget more formally to the City Council. We’ll have public hearings to answer any questions the community has about the city budget.”

Duque said his goal is to present the more “locked in” budget with updated tax information to City Council on Aug. 10 and to adopt the official budget by Sept. 14.

Twitter: @crhenderson90