Body cameras coming to the St. Louis police department

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – History for St. Louis Police:  body cameras are here.

Police supervisors are to start wearing them next week.

They had their first training session Monday and got a look at the difference they can make.

Two years ago, police in Dayton Beach, FL, shot a man who was holding a knife to woman’s throat.

Stories immediately began to spread that police shot an unarmed man.  The video showed the truth:  officers saved the woman’s life.  The public trust was strengthened.

The man police shot survived.

St. Louis police will begin a 90 day pilot program with cameras from Taser International of Glendale, AZ.

The company boasts departments from London to Los Angeles are using its body cameras.

St. Louis will rotate 24 cameras among three groups of supervisors city-wide.

It is a “real world” trial:  the video can be used as evidence in criminal cases and shared with the public through “sunshine” requests.

The field of view from the cameras ranges from 70 to 130 degrees.

They pretty much mimic the human eye, said Mark Canenguez of Taser International.  The cameras will be capturing what the officers see as it happens.

“The vast majority of police officers, whether they’re here in St. Louis or Chicago or Baltimore do a fantastic job,” said St. Louis Police Chief, Sam Dotson.  “I think the cameras should reassure the community and reassure the officers that now have somebody telling their story because nobody’s going to tell the story as well as the officers’ body cameras.”

He issued a draft list of rules for using the cameras:  traffic stops, arrests, searches, and prisoner transports are considered “trigger” events for police to start recording.

It’ll eventually cost $400,000 or more to outfit the entire 1300 member force plus nearly a $500,000 or more every year to catalog and store all the video.   Even though the department is struggling to pay for more officers on the street and give them adequate pay raises, body cameras are no longer optional, Dotson said.  Think of how different that case in Daytona Beach would have been but for the body cameras.

“They were able to capture it and use it evidence to help the officers tell their side of the story,” said Sgt. Brian Hosie, who’ll be wearing one of the cameras.  “Anything that helps us is a good tool.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the men and women of the metropolitan police department have a dangerous job,” Dotson said.  “We’ve given them technology to keep them safe: ballistic vests, tasers.  Cameras are part of that.”

He told officers repeatedly body cameras were here to stay.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association cannot stop the mandated use of body cameras but does have input on which types of cameras the department buys and the rules for their use.

There's no cost for the pilot program.  Once the 90 day trial is complete, the department will put out a request for bids.