Overland Park committee approves equipping officers with body cameras

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Overland Park moved closer to giving all its uniform officers body cameras Wednesday night.

Police pitched a plan that could ultimately cost up to $750,000 to the city’s Public Safety Committee. The committee unanimously approved a $430,000 contract to purchase 200 body cameras. Additional money is being reserved for storage.

During an hour long discussion on the issue, the committee members had lots of questions about the policy, how police planned to use the cameras, when they’d be turned on and who could view the videos later.

Police showed a demonstration of how body cameras could help them in traffic stops and other interactions with the public.

They explained the body cameras, like dash cameras, are triggered by the vehicle's  emergency lights, but they can go back and get unrecorded events for up to 24 hours if someone makes a complaint.

“This is important to us, but it’s important to our citizens, it’s transparency and accountability at it’s best, and we have the resources to provide that and we are very interested in moving forward with the program," Chief Frank Donchez said.

Transparency is something the mother of John Albers says the city needs. Albers was killed by Overland Park Police as he backed out of his driveway where an officer was standing. FOX4 investigated the circumstances surrounding the case, relying on doorbell camera footage provided by neighbors and the police department's dash camera video.

Sheila Albers has since joined a program called JOCO United advocating for better training for officers responding to mental health calls.

“I don’t know if body cameras would have necessarily saved John’s life, but I do think it would have improved accountability and if we would have had some better de-escalation training and body cameras both, the outcome could have been different," Albers said.

The use of body cameras right now is mixed throughout the Metro. Johnson County, Olathe, and Grandview , for example, all have them. Lee’s Summit has a few for K-9 and motorcycle officers, and will put the issue to buy more before voters next month in a bond issue.

Meanwhile ,Jackson County and cities like Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City, Kansas, Independence, and Raytown don’t have them right now. Spokespersons for each of the police departments have expressed interest if they could fit them into their budgets and work out factors like storage and policy.

If Overland Park City Council approves the body cameras,  police expect to have the cameras in use by the end of the year.

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