KC police board passes 2 new policies on body cameras, engaging with protesters

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners approved two new policies Tuesday after calls from activists for reform.

The police board passed the Internally Recorded Digital Media Records Police, which applies to the Kansas City Police Department’s new body-warn cameras, along its in-car cameras and interrogation video.

Specifically, this policy will require officers to have their body cameras on during every contact with the public. Any video that isn’t evidence will be kept for 180 days.

The board also passed the First Amendment Protected Activities Policy, which creates guidelines and procedures for the department when engaging with people who are participating in First Amendment-protected activities like protesting.

This policy explicitly prohibits officers from using less-lethal weapons and munitions to disperse crowds in the event of an unlawful assembly.

The Kansas City Police Department said Tuesday night that the new guidelines did not prohibit the use of chemical agents to disperse crowds in the instance of an unlawful assembly.

The new policy states: “The First Amendment Policy explicitly prohibits officers from using less-lethal weapons and munitions, other than chemical agents, to disperse crowds in the event of an unlawful assembly.”

The department said it did extensive research and looked into best practices across the nation before drafting these new policies. It also met with stakeholders, city leaders and more to address the community’s concerns.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, who also serves on the Board of Police Commissioners, praised the department for collaborating and coming up with these new policies.

“I commend you for continuing to do the work on this,” Lucas said in a statement.

Community activists have been calling for body cameras for Kansas City police officers for years, but the department finally got the funding from community donors last June after Black Lives Matter protests in Kansas City.

It has taken the department months, however, to get those cameras distributed to officers.

Activists have also been calling for reform on how officers engage with protesters ever since those protests after George Floyd’s death in late May 2020. Police used tear gas and less-lethal rounds in an effort to disperse crowds, and there were reports of police brutality. The protests turned chaotic.

But when KCPD took a different approach, aiming to contain and deescalate crowds, the protests calmed considerably.

Since then, activists have been calling for change in the Kansas City Police Department, some even pushing for Chief Rick Smith’s resignation. Smith, however, has repeatedly said he has no plans to step down.

This story has been updated with new information provided by the Kansas City Police Department.

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