Springfield Police Considering Use of Body Cameras

By Linda Ong | long@kolr10.com

Published 08/19 2014 06:29PM

Updated 08/19 2014 06:33PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- As the investigations into the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown continue, the use of video recording devices by law enforcement has become a debated topic. Springfield Police currently use dash cameras and are considering using body cameras in the near future.

"The minute the officer activates their lights and sirens, it comes on automatically," said Major Kirk Manlove of the Springfield Police Department.

The video is captured on a device that is attached to the front window of the car and audio is recorded on a microphone attached to the officer.

Manlove said about 95 of the Department's cars have dash cams-- like those used for traffic enforcement and special investigations.

"The camera knows no bias one way or the other," he said. "It's going to document what's occurring at the scene."

But the Department may soon get an additional pair of eyes and ears-- through body cams.

Manlove said the Department tested body cams a few  years ago. Among the challenges that arose is cost.

"If we have 331 officers, it'd be well over 100 thousand dollars just to get the cameras for each officer. But then you also have server and data fees that are associated with that," said Manlove.

Chris Rickerd of the American Civil Liberties Union said while the ACLU typically doesn't support greater surveillance, body-worn cameras is something that is beneficial.

"Body-worn cameras for law enforcement can be a win-win. They provide an objective account of events because a lot of these tragic situations involve multiple sides of the story and they also protect police officers from false complaints," said Rickerd.

Rickerd said body cameras also bring into question privacy issues.

"Our privacy experts looked at this and said that with the right framework in place, body-worn cameras are the future of law enforcement," he said.

Manlove said as technology advances and equipment consolidates, Springfield Police may one day operate solely on body cams. Until then, dashcams do the job.

"The microphones have a pretty decent range on them, so even though they may be out of view of the camera, they're still capturing what is being said," said Manlove.

Manlove said Springfield Police is seeing how other agencies that have incorporated body cams handle policy and privacy issues. 

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