Kansas City activist groups have long called for the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department to obtain body cameras. Last summer, in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests, KCPD received a $2.5 million donation to cover the costs of the body cameras from the Kansas City-based DeBruce Foundation.
Since then, activist groups have questioned KCPD’s strategy of implementing body cameras, with the primary focus on accountability. Criminal justice experts say success with body cameras depends on the policies implemented for how they’re used.
KCPD announced Jan. 13 that they have deployed 340 body cameras since November, and plan to deploy an additional 475 by March, which would cover the entire department.
A task force comprised of community members and local prosecutors have been meeting to help develop KCPD’s body camera policy. Discussion has centered on when the camera should be turned on, how long the department should archive footage. Additionally, considerations for releasing footage are among the policies being also being discussed. Prior to finalizing, the Board of Police Commissioners will review and vote on the drafted policy in February.
For the body cameras already deployed, KCPD spokesperson Jake Becchina said officers are temporarily following the policies outlined for dash cameras. KCPD’s body cameras automatically turn on when an officer’s vehicle’s lights turn activate. The officer is also responsible for turning on their body camera when they make contact with someone.
Becchina said officers have a responsibility to turn on their cameras, and if not, he said they would have to have justification for why they did not.
There is no way for officers to delete the footage or edit it. The footage taken on the camera also automatically uploads to a cloud system when they pull into their station.
“We are responsible to be accountable to the public and the public deserves to have officers held accountable,” Becchina said. “We hope they see this as added accountability.”
Osha White, an officer who has been with the department for five years, said the body cameras are an added layer of safety for her and other citizens.
“You have that third person that’s there now and there won’t be that unknown,” White said. “I think it’ll strengthen (community) relationships with the police department. There’s someone who’s watching us all the time now.”