KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Police departments are weighing the pros and cons of officers wearing body cameras. President Barack Obama has proposed millions to purchase cameras for law enforcement, and a Kansas state senator is authoring a bill that would mandate uniformed officers wear body cameras during interactions with the public.
The American Civil Liberties Union says it is generally opposed to any government surveillance, but an ACLU advocacy and policy director says body cameras could be a win-win for police and the public if certain privacy provisions are put in place.
The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9 by Ferguson, Mo. Police Officer Darren Wilson has pushed the police body camera controversy to the forefront.
Closer to home, Darryl Bagley’s brother, 50-year-old Carlos Davenport, was shot and killed by a Kansas City, Kan. police office in November.
“I really do actually think that it would help because then no one would have to second guess,” Bagley told FOX 4.
Police say Davenport charged officers with a sword, something his family doesn’t believe.
“It was an altercation between him and his girlfriend, and what they’re saying versus what we came to realize, it doesn’t run together,” Bagley said.
If the officer who shot Davenport was wearing a body camera, Bagley believes the camera would reveal what really happened.
Kansas State Senator David Haley (D-4) is authoring a bill that would require law enforcement officers in the State of Kansas to wear body cameras when they interact with the public.
“If we have an exact interface between an officer and a response during a particular incident, it’s going to make justice and find the justice system works better,” Sen. Haley said.
Sen. Haley hopes to have a conference committee hash out the privacy components of the bill, and that’s something the ACLU would like to see as well.
“It’s way less expensive to get it right the first time with proper evidence than it is to come back and pay someone who’s been wrongfully convicted, or sometimes wrongfully injured or killed,” he said.
The ACLU says it would also like to restrict who can view the officer’s video and to make sure people know they’re being recorded when they interact with police.
“Making sure there are policies in place for retention so material that’s recorded isn’t just sitting there forever accessible to whomever for any amount of time, so a short retention period,” Sarah Rossi, director of advocacy and Policy for the ACLU of Missouri, said.
Sen. Haley hopes to introduce his bill in the 2015 legislative session. On average, police body cameras cost about $400 per unit. There are seven police and sheriffs’ department on both sides of the state line currently using body cameras, and three university police departments have them.