The murder trial of a Former Balch springs police officer had perhaps the most powerful testimony from cameras in officers’ cars and worn on their uniforms.
Two cameras caught the moment Roy Oliver shot into a car and killed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. Other cameras showed how the other occupants of the car interacted with police after the fatal shooting and account of events that cannot be questioned.
State Senator Royce West is responsible for bringing both police dash cameras and body cameras to view in Texas. In Oliver’s case, the cameras may be the only reason the incident went to trial and ended in an historic murder conviction for the former officer.
The content of the body and dash cameras put in context the night Oliver killed Edwards and stood in contrast to Oliver’s own testimony.
“They were very significant because those cameras showed us the proof of what Roy Oliver did that night,” said Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson.
Dallas County First Assistant DA Mike Snipes say it’s possible the case would’ve never gotten an indictment if the cameras were absent.
“We eventually corroborated those body cameras with numerous eyewitnesses on the ground and expert testimony,” Snipes said. “But we wouldn't have been able to corroborate those body cameras if we didn't have those body cameras.”
Camera car systems were mounted in squad cars statewide after legislation brought by Senator West in the early 2000s.
“Police officers called me everything except a child of God,” the senator said. “Now, police officers won’t leave the station without a dash camera or a body camera because it helps them defend against frivolous complaints.”
West went back before lawmakers in 2015 with a bill requiring all patrol officers to wear body camera recording devices.
“And got about $ 10 million appropriations in order to help cities finance their body camera programs,” he said.
In 2016, the Balch Springs Police Department received just over $16,000 to purchase 27 wearable camera packages. West wants to expand the program
“The interaction between law enforcement and citizens, I think that we should have all of the evidence that we can to make certain we get the true story,” West said.
“That, I think, is the whole idea,” Johnson said. “It’s not about trying to indict officers with these cameras. What it is is about trying to get to the truth.”
“It really helps with public trust,” Sniped said. “And when you think about it from an officer’s standpoint, the more you get public trust the safer you’re going to be out there as an officer.”
Senator West says he hopes to be able to expand the program contingent on the state getting federal dollars to match monies local municipalities spend on camera packages.