- Associated Press - Friday, December 16, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston’s new police chief says he wants body cameras to automatically start recording when officers exit their vehicles instead of the current manual operation.

Chief Art Acevedo, in an interview with the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/2hONZ1J ), also said he’ll create a special unit to investigate officer-related shootings and alleged wrongdoing by police.

Acevedo was named Houston’s police chief in November. The department has about 5,200 law enforcement officers and 1,200 civilian support personnel.

“To me the relationship between a police department and a community starts with legitimacy,” the ex-Austin police chief said. “Cameras and the way we investigate officer-involved shootings … is absolutely the most important aspect of what we do to build that legitimacy and to build that trust. That’s why I’m starting here.”

Acevedo’s two proposals have drawn praise from Houston civil rights groups. But some activists said the investigation of police shootings should not be left to their fellow officers. Shootings involving officers are currently investigated by the Houston Police Department’s homicide and internal affairs units, as well as the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Acevedo is proposing a new unit that would replace homicide detectives in those investigations.

The proposals come at a time when the Police Department is under scrutiny, because officers did not activate their body cameras until after fatally shooting Alva Braziel this summer. Police said Braziel pointed a gun at the officers who found him in the middle of a street, but his widow said the camera footage “did not show (him) waving a gun or pointing a gun.”

Police Department spokesman John Cannon said Acevedo is currently researching the extra cost of getting automatically activated body cameras and determining the possibility of modifying the cameras the department uses now.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com

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