Body cameras for all uniformed officers in the Mobile Police Department could cost the city close to $2 million over the next five years.

Chief James Barber told the Mobile City Council Tuesday that the department is currently testing three types of cameras — two from TASER, which were discussed at the meeting and one from VieVU — but he showed a presentation featuring two versions from TASER.

The preferred option would be a camera from TASER called Axon Flex that could attach to glasses, or to the shoulder of a uniform. Barber said the Flex camera could be linked through bluetooth to an officer’s TASER, so once the stun gun deployed the camera would turn on automatically. The view from the shoulder or head mount is also better than a camera that is mounted to the chest of a uniform, he said.

“The view is so much better that it can actually replace dash cameras (in vehicles),” he said.
Barber said if this version of camera is purchased, new TASERs would also have to be purchased because the department’s current stun guns aren’t compatible. The new stun guns would raise the city’s cost to $480,000 in the first year they are implemented. The city would then pay $374,000 a year for the remaining four years of the contract for maintenance of the system. Replacement of cameras would also be built into that cost.

The other camera being tested doesn’t have the bluetooth technology and would have a traditional chest mount, which makes it harder to view when an officer is in his or her vehicle.
“Once your out of the vehicle it does a good job of seeing things,” Barber said.

Both camera versions would be programmed to start once an officer switches on the blue lights of a patrol vehicle, Barber said. Once activated, both cameras would be able to show video from 30 seconds before the activation occurred, he said.

The cameras would also come with redacting software, Barber said.

After the presentation, which showed video from each camera still taken in various situations, Barber said he planned to come back with a proposal in the near future.

In other business, the council decided to layover for two weeks a proposed amendment to the city’s animal control ordinance that would make it illegal to sell animals at Mobile’s flea market on Schillinger Road.

Instead of deciding on the ordinance Tuesday, councilors wanted to take the matter up at the next Public Safety Committee meeting, which was scheduled for Jan. 6. at 1 p.m. on the ninth floor of Government Plaza.

Both sides of the issue came out in force to speak about it Tuesday.

Proponents of the ordinance told councilors that the law would help prevent animal cruelty.

Dr. Carrie Beers, a local veterinarian who used to work at Heart of Dixie clinic on Schillinger Road, said she saw more than 100 puppies sold from the flea market and told councilors at only “three or four” were in decent condition. She said many were too young to even be sold and she could tell, in some cases, because the puppies being brought to the clinic didn’t have teeth.

“I’ve seen countless animals where the birth date given by breeders was not accurate,” she said.

Beers gave councilors suggestions on what to do. She said either ban the sale, or strengthen the regulations on breeders.

In all, six speakers supported the ordinance banning the sale of animals at the flea market.

Dana Baker, a local breeder, argued that flea market vendors were given no notice that the ordinance would be on the agenda. She said enacting the law would force 15 to 30 vendors at the flea market to close down.

Baker also told councilors that the puppies are an attraction at the flea market and not allowing the sale of puppies would hurt other vendors.

“If you ask vendors why people come there they’ll say it’s the puppies,” Baker said.

In all, three speakers were against the banning of animal sales at the flea market.

The council also denied the appeal of Trevor Gatson, who was denied a license to operate a vehicle for hire. Gatson had been cited for four moving violations since 2010, Barber said. The police department allows individuals seeking a chauffeur license to have three moving violations within a seven year period, Barber said. The city ordinance pertaining to the license allows for denial after one violation, he said.

The council approved the request for vacation of land at the intersection of Old Shell and Hillcrest roads to make way for a parking lot for a sandwich shop attached to a convenience store. The vacation was approved within a request for compensation for the city because it was in the system before the council began looking into the issue.