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St. Louis city moves forward with deal to provide body cameras for police officers

ST. LOUIS – An initiative to provide a year of free body cameras to St. Louis city police officers passed Wednesday after a heated exchange between lawmakers.

It's a plan that has come with plenty of controversy.

A vote from the full board of Alderman was not needed for the program. As three elected officials that make up the Board of Estimate and Apportionment would decide the fate of the proposed program..  The President of the Board of Alderman Lewis Reed who secured the deal, Mayor Lyda Krewson and City Comptroller Darlene Green are on that board.

Reed only needed one vote and he got both.

However, that vote came with some very heated discussion during the meeting as we heard shouting matches between elected officials.  There were also heat exchanges between residents and three board members in the meeting room at St. Louis city hall, which was packed this afternoon with community leaders, residents and Anthony Lamar Smith's mother who was waiting to hear the outcome of the board’s decision.

With the approval, Axon, a Phoenix based business and leader in body cam technology won the contract to equip St. Louis police officers with body cams.

Under the deal approved Axon would provide body cameras to all St. Louis city police officers for a year free of charge with 1,200 cameras.  Data storage is also included in the deal.

The cost to equip the St. Louis police department with Axon body cameras would normally be about $1.2 million dollars a year.

If after a year St. Louis police and city leaders like the program, then they could keep it and pay the $1.2 million a year.

If they don`t like it, they could cancel with no charge.

The St. Louis police department issued a statement that reads in part:

After careful review of the department`s body camera pilot program, Chief O`Toole recognizes the value body cameras provide to modern day policing and therefore supports a program that included long tern funding, as well as administrative and legal support.

When implementing this program, Chief O`Toole wants to insure it is successful for the metropolitan police department.

A small group of sergeants participated in a trial with the cameras back in December of 2015.  That experiment ended and at this point no city officers have body cameras.