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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wichita City Council approves body camera project

By RICK PLUMLEE
The Wichita Eagle

If all goes well, Wichita police officers will be wearing body cameras by the first of the year.

The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to allow the Police Department to proceed with its project to use body-worn cameras.

The department will put the purchase of the cameras out for bids, Deputy Chief Terri Moses said. The process should allow for the cameras to be in the field within a couple of months.

A federal grant will pay the $125,000 to buy 20 body-worn computers, plus 40 cameras and associated equipment. The city's cost is an estimated $24,000 annually for storing the data at a secure off-site facility and for retrieval of that data.

"We started using video cameras 30 years ago," Moses said. "We're just trying to keep up with state-of-the-art equipment."

The department has eight in-car dash cameras and will continue using them "as long as they are serviceable," Moses said.

Police field-tested the body cameras for 30 days last February.

Officers wear the computers on their gunbelts. The cameras are worn on an officer's head, so they will record what the officer sees. The cameras will help in gathering evidence, plus they will hold officers accountable and can refute frivolous citizen complaints, police say.

Once recordings are made, police can't alter or delete the videos.

Speak Out Kansas, a citizens group formed earlier this year to deal with community issues, said the body cameras will help relationships between the community and the police.

"This protects the officers and the citizens," said Monty Shaw, the group's executive director.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com.

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