Overland Park police begin wearing body cameras

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Police started wearing body cameras Monday to improve transparency and accountability for officers.

After a lot of research and testing, the technology is finally becoming standard police equipment.

The police chief readily admits that he didn't want to be on the cutting edge when it comes to body cameras.

Frank Donchez says he wanted other police agencies to work out the bugs in deploying a surveillance system.

Reliable equipment, video storage and privacy have been among the hurdles facing law enforcement in implementing monitoring programs.

Overland Park spent $530,000 on 200 cameras, equipment and a storage server to save body cam video for 90 days.

"The rules on viewing this material will follow the Kansas Open Records Act," Donchez said. "They are no different than in-car cameras or any other evidentiary items or anything else we do, reports. That’s governed by Kansas Open Records Act and we will just follow those rules."

Uniformed police officers working patrol, traffic, in the community and at schools will wear the cameras. Detectives also can use them if they want.

Like a growing number of law enforcement agencies, Overland Park upgraded its in-car dash cameras first, to match the body cameras so both systems can work in sync to provide a seamless record of police response.

Donchez say officers are excited about having cameras because he claims nationwide, body cam video has been more likely to clear an officer of wrongdoing than show improper actions.

Police also are spending about $90,000 a year for cloud storage. Donchez says any citizen complaint or criminal incident where the video is evidence will be saved indefinitely.

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