The Kirksville Police Department currently is seeking approval from the Kirksville City Council for body-worn cameras to be part of the 2016 budget.
The City Council is in the process of completing the 2016 budget, which will be finalized at the end of December. During a September City Council planning meeting, Chief of Police Jim Hughes presented a position paper on the virtues of body-worn cameras to the Council.
Hughes says the Council has been supportive of KPD getting body cameras and KPD will know by the end of November if funding has been approved and where the money would come from.
Although there will be a public hearing to discuss the budget Dec. 7, the specific amount of funding allocated to KPD will not be known until Dec. 21, Hughes says. He says it also is possible the body cameras will be implemented throughout several months until KPD has all the equipment needed to fully debut the cameras. Hughes says he is in charge of finding possible sources of funding, such as tax income, to pay for the body cameras, but the City Council is responsible for the specific budget details.
The cameras and their equipment could cost a one-time fee of as much as $20,000, according to Hughes’ report. The data storage required for keeping the recorded video could cost $15,000-20,000 a year, according to the report.
Hughes says the cameras are not a panacea, meaning they have roughly 180 degrees or fewer of coverage and can only record what is directly in front of an officer.
Hughes says the body cameras are a tool and, no matter how the cameras are worn, there will always be critical elements that might not be seen or recorded.
Hughes says even though the cameras have their limitations, it is better than having no cameras at all. In the position paper, Hughes says agencies that have instituted a professional body-worn camera initiative have seen as much as an 80 percent decrease in use of force complaints and a 60 percent reduction in total use of force incidents.
“A decrease in use of force complaints is possible but we also might see a reduction in use of force against police since people will know they can be recorded,” Hughes says. “We talk a good game, but we’re willing to back it up.”
Hughes says while public interest and demands for police body cameras have increased throughout the past year during the aftermath of the Michael Brown and Freddie Gray incidents, the idea of body cameras is not new to officers. He says KPD was interested in acquiring body cameras long before the events in Ferguson.
“I’m not asking for them because I don’t trust my staff. I’m asking for them because I do. The people here, they’ve got a good police department and I’m so confident in that, that I believe the body cameras will let the community know we’re doing what’s right.”
– Jim Hughes, Chief of Police
Hughes says if the Council doesn’t approve funding for the cameras this year, he will keep bringing it up in discussion.
Hughes says the City Council told him they did not approve funding for body cameras last year because they fully trust the police force and did not see a need for the cameras. The cameras could also benefit the public, Hughes says, because they provide a true account of what happens in a conflict and have the potential to back up a citizen’s account of an event.
For more information from a Kirksville city councilman and a Truman State justice systems professor , read more on Issuu.