KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Thirty Kansas City police officers are wearing body cameras right now, but will the whole department get them? It came up for debate this week at a KCStat meeting called to address citizens becoming increasingly dissatisfied with crime prevention efforts and police visibility.
A 2013 cell phone video shows Ryan Stokes and friends arguing with another group at Power and Light over a missing cell phone until pepper spray went off.
Several people, including Stokes, ran from the scene. Police caught up with Stokes in a parking lot near 13th and McGee. According to the certificate of commendation awarded to the police officer who shot him, when Stokes refused to drop a weapon, the officer had no choice but to shoot and kill him. But according to the lawsuit filed by the family, Stokes was unarmed.
His best friend Stanley Taylor was with him moments before his death.
“Knowing that Ryan didn’t carry a gun it wasn’t believable. Our family didn’t believe it when we first heard it at all,” Taylor said of the police officer's account of what happened.
Stokes' friends and family have been at every Police Board of Commissioners meeting this year pushing for policy changes. What really happened after the cell phone video cuts off?
“We’re left with a lot of questions where if we had the body camera we could just piece things together a little better,” Taylor said.
Kansas City police began testing out a pilot program for body cameras last year. Just over 200 officers have tried them out so far on foot, bike, and motorcycle patrol.
No final decision has been made on whether to keep them. At this week's meeting issues were raised about storage and creating privacy policies.
Damon Daniel, AdHoc Group Against Crime President, said “for our law enforcement officers to not go ahead and do body cams does raise a question is just about the storage and the policies or is it more about how we are being more transparent?”
“I hear all excuses pretty much," Taylor said of the ongoing debate.
So Stokes family and friends will continue to push for changes including equipping all officers with body cameras.
“It doesn’t bring my friend back at all, but we could at least know what happened in the situation,” Taylor said.
A study last year conducted by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights & Upturn found police departments in 43 of the nation’s 68 largest cities now have body cameras. A final KCPD report to the Police Board of Commissioners on the feasibility of body cameras is due in November.