The recent events in Ferguson, Mo., have brought more scrutiny to police actions and on the use of body cameras by police departments to record exactly what happens in a high profile or controversial incident.
Prairie Village Police Chief Wes Jordan told the city council this week that his department is exploring the use of body cameras by all officers, but is not ready with a recommendation quite yet. In Prairie Village, though, body cameras have already been in use on a limited basis. Motorcycle patrols have been using body cameras for about eight months, Jordan said, and the tactical units have used them for quite a while longer.
The motorcycle traffic patrols began using body cameras because the motorcycles by nature do not have the in-car video systems installed in all the police cars. The tactical units are likely to be operating away from patrol cars in high-risk situations.
“We know we have to have in-car video,” Jordan said, “(there is) too much liability.” The department is upgrading its in-car video system which is activated automatically when the light bars are turned on. The car system also retains video from a minute prior to the light activation, so it is always recording, but not always retaining information.
Body cameras are manually activated by the officer. Currently officers only have an audio feed on their person. Responding to a council question, Jordan said he does not know of a body camera that has the ability to record all the time automatically.
The biggest challenge with adding the body cameras, according to Jordan, is data storage. The cameras themselves cost about $400 each, but the department has to solve the capacity issue of how to efficiently download and store the data from each shift.
Even before Ferguson, attention to body cameras had started to grow. “We’ve seen it emerging (for a while),” Jordan said.