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FORT WORTH -- The Fort Worth Police Department is putting 400 new body cameras on the streets.

City council approved a five-year, $2.5 million contract Tuesday. Funds will come out of the police budget.

'We now have more cameras deployed than any other law enforcement agency in the U.S.,' said FWPD Police Chief Jeff Halstead.

More than 600 will be deployed over the next 12-to-18 months. They're from a subsidiary of the same company that provides TASER stun guns.

The deal includes secure storage for all that video. It can be viewed only by people licensed to access it.

'We'll have the capacity to look at over 200,000 videos in our library in a given week,' Chief Halstead said.

The department started testing body cams about two years ago. The cameras, about the size of a lipstick tube, mount snugly onto special glasses or can be worn on the uniform.

Halstead said videos already have cleared up several citizen complaints that, in the past, might have led to lengthy internal investigations.

'What it will really benefit us in the long run is that public trust will be at its highest level ever,' he said.

Officers can turn them off and on, but they're expected to roll a lot.

Chief Halstead said supplying the police force with cameras is important enough that he'll find funding in the police budget, though not at the expense of adding officers.

'This will never get in the way of us hiring more officers,' he said.

The contract also calls for replacing new cameras with even newer ones midway through the five-year term. The technology is evolving quickly.

Halstead believes so strongly in body cams that he said he is not renewing the contract for dash cam systems.

Fort Worth is considered such a leader in the trend that it has trained seven other departments in the use of body cams. Cops from Canada and Scotland come to town in the next few weeks.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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