The Cape Girardeau Police Department Supports Body Cameras
Officers from the Cape Girardeau Police Department say there are many benefits to body worn cameras and they have seen the benefits for a long time. The department began looking into getting car or body worn cameras over a year ago.
According to corporal Darin Hickey, the cameras can capture any involvement with an individual and record evidence the officer may have overlooked.
“It’s just another set of eyes that the officer would be wearing,” Hickey explained.
Former Chief of Police Carl Kinnison served in the Cape Girardeau Police Department for 34 years. He now teaches criminal justice at Southeast Missouri State University.
“It’s a great way to resolve ambiguous situations,” Kinnison said.
Video can supply indisputable evidence to backup or discredit accusations of misbehavior.
“When there’s a camera that’s rolling and everything is being recorded it improves officer behavior and it improves the citizen behavior, as well,” Kinnison said.
Recently, President Barack Obama requested $263 million to help fund and train police departments in using these body cameras. The President made the request, which needs approval by Congress, in an effort to the bridge mistrust between police and minorities. The action came following a grand jury’s decision to not bring charges against officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year old Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Both Hickey and Kinnison agree that cameras can be beneficial, but there are also disadvantages.
Hickey said the cost to use these cameras is substantial. There are 78 sworn officers on the force. More than 40 of those officers are in the patrol division.
“There’s an ongoing cost associated with those because you have to keep them maintained, you have to have storage and you have to have somewhere to store that video,” he said.
According to him, the department has tested different vendors and cameras to see what their options are. The cameras and vendors all vary in services, capabilities and prices.
“It is a fiscally daunting task to look at these cameras, but we feel it is so important,” Hickey said.
A camera would also add to the equipment officers would have to carry.
“He’s already carrying 25 pounds of gear around his waist. He’d have to be carrying another piece of equipment on his chest, belt or on his head,” Hickey said.
New equipment can be distracting, he explained, but officers will undergo training so they know how to handle it.
According to Kinnison some people are concerned these body worn cameras are an invasion of privacy. He said questions have been raised about how much of the information collected should be part of the public record.
“When you walk into someone’s home and you’re recording the inside of their house, their faces, maybe juvenile faces or you’re collecting private information how do you go about screening the release of that,” he asked.
The cameras will not record constantly in order to save battery life and storage space, Hickey said. Officers will be able to turn the cameras on and off, but they are not able to edit or manipulate the footage because it is evidence.
“Nobody can alter the video,” he said. “Nobody can tamper with the video. Nobody can remove any parts.”