Tuesday, November 1, 2011
In an effort to bring more accountability to both officers and citizens, the Wichita Police Department has asked to purchase 40 body-mounted cameras to track an officers every move and interaction with citizens. The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to go out for bids and request proposals from companies who make the products.
"We started 30 years ago with a basic VHS system that barely fit into the trunk of a patrol car, but that was state-of-the-art at the time," said Deputy Chief Terri Moses. "Now we're ready to move forward to what is now the state-of-the-art."
The purchase will not cost local taxpayers any extra funds during the first year. Moses said the initial purchase of $125,000 worth of equipment would be made through funds already obtained from the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, otherwise known as the economic stimulus package. However, there will be maintenance and evidence costs that will be budgeted through the police department every year after that.
A group that has been advocating for police cameras for two years claimed victory after the city council's decision Tuesday.
"We have finally been heard," said J. J. Selmon with the group Speak Out Kansas. "We feel it's been a long time coming and we hope this will put an end to the 'he said/she said' problem that often develops when citizens interact with police."
The advantages that will come with the body cameras, Moses said, are that they will provide increased officer accountability, as well as citizen accountability. It will also provide excellent training tools to show officers how -- or how not -- to handle various situations that arise on the street. The cameras are also expected to provide a decrease in false claims against officers and lighten the district court load.
The department has been using five body cameras on loan from a private company since January. The captured video goes straight into a hub that cannot be deleted or manipulated by anybody in the department. Otherwise, Moses said, none of the evidence would be admissible in court.
"We're glad the city is moving in this direction," Selmon said. "We think it's a worthwhile project and will end a lot of headaches for people on both sides."