Kansas City Police Department’s use of body cameras under microscope

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Body cameras and how the Kansas City Police Department uses them will be under the microscope in the coming months.

Last year the department received more than 800 body cameras. The department trained and distributed the cameras to officers between November 2020 and April 2021. The cameras are now being worn by officers across the city and in the department’s traffic enforcement unit.

The city said video from the cameras should be used to increase accountability and transparency, if they’re used correctly. The City Council asked for the audit of the police department’s body camera program to make sure that’s happening.

There’s no specific incident being investigated as a part of the audit. Instead, city auditor Douglas Jones is looking to answer these questions: Are the body cams being used following KCPD policies and what practices would make body cameras more effective?

“Body worn camera videos can be used to promote transparency, increase accountability, and discourage inappropriate behaviors by both officers and the public,” City Auditor Douglas Jones said.

The auditor’s office said it will interview officers and go on ride-alongs to see first hand how the cameras are used on calls. Auditors said they will compare the department’s camera policy and how officers are being trained to recommended practices.

The city said it also plans to look at how the department saves video and to see if people outside of the department have access to videos as they should.

The findings are expected to be released in April 2022 with some admitted blank spots expected.

“Missouri Sunshine Law limits the videos that we can review for this audit. Per state statute, mobile video recordings that are part of an active investigation are closed records until the investigation becomes inactive,” Jones said.

A similar presentation is planned for the next Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners meeting. A spokesperson for KCPD said that there may be more to say on the audit – from their perspective – following that presentation.

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