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JACINTO CITY RECEIVES GRANTS TOWARD NEW AMBULANCE AND POLICE BODY CAMERAS

Police Chief Joe Ayala and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee holding the Presentation check. Others left to right: Fire Chief Rebecca Mier, City Manager Lon Squyres, Lieutenant Mark Longrigg, Councilmen Mario Gonzales, Allen Lee, Gregg Robinson, USDA State Director Paco Valentin, Linda Jamail. (Photo by Allan Jamail)
Police Chief Joe Ayala and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee holding the Presentation check. Others left to right: Fire Chief Rebecca Mier, City Manager Lon Squyres, Lieutenant Mark Longrigg, Councilmen Mario Gonzales, Allen Lee, Gregg Robinson, USDA State Director Paco Valentin, Linda Jamail. (Photo by Allan Jamail)

JACINTO CITY – Friday July 22, 2016 at City Hall, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee announced two important USDA Rural Development Grants for Jacinto City. Both the Fire Department and the Police Department will benefit from these grants.

Congresswoman Lee announced an historical moment in the history of the city. She said the two federal grants totaling $102,000 in funds for the Police and Fire Departments represent the first ever rural grant in the mostly urban 18th Congressional District. The 18th District is a very diverse and large geographic area which includes areas not lying in Houston’s city limits. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has many programs that Jacinto City officials weren’t aware they qualify for, Lee continued.

Congresswoman Lee’s office facilitated the important meetings between Jacinto City officials and officials of the USDA which brought forth funding for the two departments.

USDA Rural Development Texas State Director Paco Valentin thanked Congresswoman Lee for her proactive role in securing the much needed funds to ensure improved public safety and emergency services become a reality for the city.

The Fire Department will receive $90,000 in grant funds towards purchasing a Type I Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) capable of delivering Medical Intensive and Critical Levels of care. Congresswoman Lee said, “this new ambulance will provide Jacinto City with some of the tools necessary and required to provide quality emergency preparedness. A prepared community is a strong resilient community.”

The City’s only ambulance is reaching a tier 2 status; soon it will no longer have the rating needed to be reliable as a primary 911 unit and will be useful for reserve or backup calls. The city has a 15 year old ambulance that’s permanently out of service.

The Police Department grant of $12,300 is to purchase 25 body-worn cameras for the city’s police officers. Effective last September the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 158 which added subchapter N to the Occupations Code related to police officers’ body-worn cameras. The new law’s provision makes confidential any video or audio recording made whereby deadly force was used or is related to Administrative or criminal investigation of an officer until all criminal matters are finally adjudicated and all investigations are completed.

Police Chief Joe Ayala stated the body cameras will increase the trust of the community towards his officers and will help protect both officers and citizens from unwarranted accusations. Officers are required to turn on their camera for all traffic violation stops or during all investigations whenever interacting with anyone in the performance of official duties, the Chief said. Currently the department has a few cameras for the police officers on duty, as they go off-duty they pass them on to officers coming on duty. The grant will provide enough cameras for all the department’s officers to be assigned a camera so the recordings made will prevent any chance of confusing who made the recordings.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued the following policy statement about body-worm cameras by law enforcement personnel:

The challenge of on-officer body cameras is the tension between their potential to invade privacy and their strong benefit in promoting police accountability. Overall, we think they can be a win-win— but only if they are deployed within a framework of strong policies to ensure they protect the public without becoming yet another system for routine surveillance of the public, and maintain public confidence in the integrity of those privacy protections.

Without such a framework, their accountability benefits would not exceed their privacy risks.

Policies should require that an officer activate his or her camera when responding to a call for service or at the initiation of any other law enforcement or investigative encounter between a police officer and a member of the public. That would include stops, frisks, searches, arrests, consensual interviews and searches, enforcement actions of all kinds. This should cover any encounter that becomes in any way hostile or confrontational.

The City’s body-worn camera policy requires the Chief and the police officers to be trained in the use of the cameras to insure citizens Privacy Rights isn’t violated. Copies of the policy can be obtained from the police department at 10429 Market St. Rd. at the rate set by city ordinance.

Citizens can obtain copies of any audio or video digital recordings made of them as provided in the state’s Public Records Act. However no recording will be released if the recording is being used in an on-going investigation. The City’s police department must keep the recordings in accordance provided in the state’s public records retention laws.