For years, Kansas City community activists and leaders have been asking for funding to equip the Kansas City Police with body cameras. Now, thanks to a donation, their request will soon be a reality. On Wednesday evening, KCPD Police chief Richard Smith announced the department had received a $2.5 million donation to purchase the camera.
The donation comes from the DeBruce Foundation, a national foundation that seeks to expand economic growth and opportunity. Paul DeBruce, the founder, has been a trustee of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and has chaired the Kansas City Reserve Board of Directors.
“We believe in Kansas City and we want to be part of the solution for the future good of our community,” The DeBruce Foundation said in a statement. “Both citizens and police agree body cameras are needed and a good next step, but there is not enough funding. It is time for foundations and business leaders to take action. That’s why The DeBruce Foundation is stepping up to lead this charge along with the Police Foundation.”
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City was one of the groups that have been demanding the police department begins using body cameras.
“If body cameras were present, attorneys believe the Ryan Stokes case would have taken a different shape in the interest of justice,” the SCLC-GKC said in a statement on their website.
Stokes, 24, was shot and killed in 2013 outside the Power and Light District. At the time, the Kansas City Police Department said Stokes had tried to steal another man’s phone, was armed and refused to drop his weapon. Independent investigations concluded Stokes hadn’t stolen the phone, was unarmed, and was surrendering.
In a KCPD press release, Chief Richard Smith said, “We have been listening to the community’s call for change.” According to the release, KCPD has already purchased in-car camera systems and storage to be compatible with a body camera system. They plan to implement body cameras quickly and hope it will increase trust and transparency. Just this year, the officer was cleared and given immunity.
Video provides compelling evidence of police misconduct and can be used to train, discipline, fire, and even prosecute officers. It also helps exonerate officers falsely accused of misconduct. Often the real benefit is that everyone – both the police and citizens, often act differently knowing a camera is rolling.
While members of the SCLC-GKC are pleased with the announcement about the body camera funding, they noted in a statement on their website, “This is just one of many policy changes that can make a difference.”