St. Louis approves contract to buy body cameras for police department

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ST. LOUIS – History made Wednesday at St. Louis City Hall, as the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment—made up of Mayor Lyda Krewson, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, and Comptroller Darlene Green—voted 3-0 in favor of body cameras for the men and women of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

“Being a police officer is a hairy job,” Krewson said. “Being a police officer is a difficult job. I think this is a tool for police officers and for the community. It’s time.”

The board agreed to spend $5.7 million for 1,000 cameras (800 body cams and 200 dashboard cameras for police vehicles) to outfit every on-duty officer for the next five years.

“This has been a long time coming. I agree we need to move forward with this purchase,” Green said.

The Body Worn system is identical to one the St. Louis County Police Department began using in August 2019. The units look like smartphones with a lens built into police uniforms. Officers can turn them off and on with a tap. The cameras activate automatically when an officer runs, goes down, at the sound of gunfire, and when an officer draws their weapon.

Wi-Fi routers automatically upload videos so officers cannot edit them.

St. Louis has been stopping and starting with body camera programs, even testing different systems, for nearly six years.

“It’s been a long time coming and I’m really, really happy that we’re finally there,” Reed said. “We’re joining police departments all across this country now with body cameras. The discussion really grew out of what happened in Ferguson in 2014. It’s been a long six years.”

St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden issued the following statement:

“I truly believe that body cameras for our officers will help establish the transparency our local community and the nation at-large has desired of law enforcement for many years. The implementation of body cameras will be a step forward in bridging the gap between our Department members and the citizens we serve.”

Roll out of the program will being next month and take 30 days or more to fullyimplement, Krewson said.

In a symbolic move, the board voted 2-1 for resolutions supporting reform of “qualified immunity” policies for police officers.

Mayor Krewson voted against it, saying it was a matter of federal—not city—law.

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