Politics & Government

Legislators propose equipping Kansas officers with body cameras

Wichita police Officer Rich McCluney wears a camera that is similar to a Bluetooth accessory. (Feb. 2, 2011)
Wichita police Officer Rich McCluney wears a camera that is similar to a Bluetooth accessory. (Feb. 2, 2011) File photo

A Wichita Democrat and a Johnson County Republican will collaborate on a bill to equip law enforcement officers across the state with body cameras.

“It protects not only the citizens. It also protects law enforcement, you know, so it won’t be a ‘he said, she said.’ We’ll actually have footage documenting,” said Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, contending the bill would add transparency to the handling of police shootings.

She said she plans to introduce the bill in the House Corrections Committee this week. Senate Democrats said Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, introduced a companion bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Finney said the bill would be very similar to a bill before the New Jersey Legislature. She has support from Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, the committee’s chair and a strong advocate of government transparency who championed a bill to open police affidavits as public records last year.

Rubin said he is supportive of requiring law enforcement agencies from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Kansas Highway Patrol down to local police and sheriff’s departments “to equip at least some of their officers on the street with body cameras.”

He said studies show that charges of police misconduct decline in places that use body cameras “because it can be substantiated that it didn’t occur.”

“That’s why I support it and I’d like to see it done,” he said.

Rubin said he wanted to leave law enforcement agencies with as much discretion as possible to decide how many cameras they need or what kind to use. He also acknowledged that funding could be an issue.

“As with so many things we do here, the details are what count,” Rubin said. “And one of the big details is funding. What I don’t want to do to law enforcement is give them another state unfunded mandated that’s going to cost them a whole of money. So it’s a question of how we’re going to pay for it.”

The Wichita Police Department announced plans last month to use grant money and money seized from drug arrests to buy about 450 body cameras by the end of 2015.

Finney, who has been outspoken about police shootings, acknowledged the recent controversy of some of her social media posts on the topic.

She tweeted a link to a report from the blog Kansas Exposed, which falsely identified the police officer responsible for shooting and killing 23-year-old John Paul Quintero earlier this month.

She was asked about that by a television reporter at a public forum last week and accused the reporter of harassment. She said she thought that took away from the more important issue, a lack of transparency surrounding police shootings.

The conservative website the Daily Caller pointed out that Finney had “liked” a sexually derogatory remark about the reporter from a commenter on the Facebook page of the blogger who misidentified the police officer. Finney said she “likes” everything she reads on Facebook. “I ‘liked’ everything on the whole page, negatives, positives and everything. Anything that I read I just ‘like.’ ”

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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