Bids on body cameras for Kansas City police questioned

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After studying the idea for years, KC police are now receiving bids to equip officers with body cameras.

Commanders aren't sure yet how much the recording system will cost or how taxpayers will pay for it.

“This department is still heading toward that achievement of getting body cameras,” Chief Rick Smith said. “It`s just we want to make sure we do it right.”

But the body camera request for proposals doesn't include women or minority-owned enterprises as a factor in determining who should get a contract worth millions of taxpayer dollars.

And that doesn't sit well with Mayor Sly James.

“If we are spending taxpayer dollars on things, millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars, there at least should be some consideration of whether or not subcontracting work or prime contracting work can be done by MBEs, WBEs and local people,” James said.

Two years ago, police tested body cameras during a 3-month trial. But some on the department said they've been studying the issue for the last 10 years.

“So many departments across the country jumped into the deep end of the pool and ended up drowning,” said Brad Lemon, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. “They found themselves in horrible positions and couldn't get out of them. The deliberate pace the department has taken has probably served the city better.”

Last year, a city council committee learned start-up costs for body cams could total $6 million. Saving video from about 700 cameras could cost police $30,000 a month.

“This has been studied for a long time,” James said. “It’s an expensive proposition. There`s no money allocated for it in the budget. That`s going to impede something when you have no money for it.”

Smith said police must replace their in-car camera system and have taken time to make sure new dash cams will be compatible with any body cameras under consideration.

The body camera bids are due back by the end of August. James said he doesn't want a new request for bids on police body cameras to include women and minority firms, but he said all future requests should make that a consideration.