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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Jackson County Sheriff’s Office employees will begin wearing body cameras Thursday morning.

Sheriff Darryl Forte announced all uniformed deputies and supervisors have a body camera. They will be required to wear the camera while on duty and while working any security or secondary job.

“It increases our accountability internally and externally. I think segments of the community expect us to do some things differently,” Forte said. 

The cameras will work with the office’s current in-car camera systems, allowing the sheriff’s office to collect video recordings of incidents from multiple angles.

The approved funding came through during the 2021 Jackson County Legislature.

Forte said he expects the body cameras to promote accountability and integrity within the department, while also gathering evidence that may be needed for investigations. Recordings will also be used for training purposes.

Deputies have already been trained on the use of body cameras, according to the department.

“Body worn cameras alone cannot build trust in law enforcement, but across the country body worn cameras have shown to be a useful tool in strengthening and safeguarding the relationship between law enforcement and other segments of the community,” Forte said.

The move was a welcome sign to Pastor Darren Edwards, director of Getting to the Heart of the Matter. 

“It moves towards a building of trust. That alone doesn’t build trust, but it does begin to layer a pillar of trust as we move towards what we believe is going to be new policing in Kansas City,” Edwards said. 

Edwards said this helps but isn’t the end all be all. Access to the footage once an incident arises is key for the community to continue to build trust with the deputies sworn to serve and protect. 

“Not just the wearing of body cameras but making footage available so that citizens can see alongside the police department what has taken place,” Edwards said. 

Forte said there will be times when releasing the content of the camera won’t be appropriate, but they ensure they will be transparent. 

Deputies will have discretion on when and when not to have their cameras on, but they must justify that reasoning if turned off. But there are times when they must be on, according to Forte. 

“When they anticipate a use a force, when they’re at a crime scene, and it needs to be documented,” he said.

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