St. Louis Police Department pushing to add body cameras - KMOV.com

St. Louis Police Department pushing to add body cameras

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Body camera (Credit: KMOV) Body camera (Credit: KMOV)

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) – Officials say the St. Louis Police Department is pushing to have officers wear body cameras.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson says the cameras are the wave of the future in law enforcement.

"I think we live in a voyeuristic society now and everybody has the ability to watch YouTube and see what is going on. I think there is an expectation that the public will have access to what police officers do," said Dotson.

In December 2015, the St. Louis Police Department started a 90 day pilot program to test the cameras out.

With that trial period winding down, Dotson gave an update on where things stand and where they are going in his push for his officers to add body cameras to the Public Safety Board on March 3.

"I think body cameras are great tools, but we have to be smart about the way we deploy them to protect the rights of victims to protect the rights of witnesses and it's not something on a policy level I can do, we need guidance from Jefferson City on," says Dotson.

Ward 23 Alderman Joe Vaccaro says it is the privacy factor that has many people concerned.

"If it's a rape victim, the cameras are going to be on initially when they go in even though there's some privacy. So there's concerns all about privacy," said Vaccaro.

Sergeants with the police department say they have body cameras right now, as part of a pilot program that is about to end within the second week of March. Then the public will weigh in.

"I think there is an expectation that the public will have access to what police officers do, what they see and I think in more cases than not, they are going to show that our officers and the City of St. Louis do a fantastic job. They do their job professionally," said Dotson.

Officials say the St. Louis Police Officers Association will also play a huge role in whether or not officers get body cameras.

Jeff Roorda, President of the St. Louis Police Officers Association said, "The union anxiously awaits the findings from the pilot program and looks forward to meeting with the chief to discuss unresolved matters like the absence of legal privacy protections for citizens and the estimated $5 million price tag for funding cameras in a police department that pays $10,000 less than neighboring departments and is about 100 officers down because of lagging salaries."

According to officials, the timeline for the next step in adding body cameras will be for the pilot program to wrap up, public comment and then the chief will make his report and decide on where to go from there.

The cameras cost between $400 and $500. Officials say once the 90 day trial is complete, the department will put out a request for bids.

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