Police Union, City settle body camera fight, contract violations

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WICHITA -- Wichita Police officers say the city has violated contracts, including the use of body cameras.

Nearly three years ago, the Axon body cameras were introduced to the force. Policies were set, but never approved by the union -- a requirement for the city, said Steve Bukaty, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of the Police.

"I just think it's important that the public understands that the police union's not opposed to these cameras. We're just making sure that we're meeting our duty to our officers," Bukaty said. "You never know how things are going to end up, but it's our expectation that when it's all done, we anticipate that there will be expanded use of these cameras."

The cameras were a part of a negotiating point between the union and the City of Wichita. After three days in arbitration, the two struck a deal and now are developing plans to move forward and developing plans together on future policies, Bukaty said. Wednesday morning, paperwork was signed.

Wichita Police Lt. Dan East said the body cameras are a vital part of the department. It currently has 48 cameras and plans to add 16 more. The department has more than 600 employees, including about 400 officers.

Bukaty said the union agrees that the cameras are important, but the officers would like to work with the city to creating policies on what to expect, like how to store and when data from cameras will be deleted.

"I think the city deserves some credit for agreeing that these are issues dealing with terms and conditions of employment that need to be bargained over, and that's where the two sides sit down at the negotiating table, make proposals back and forth," Bukaty said.

The arbitration case included several other settlements, including negotiations with working conditions and lost wages. The City of Wichita will pay nearly $28,000 in lost pay and lost overtime pay -- that is not connected to the body camera issue, Bukaty said.

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