SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– You might notice Springfield Police Officers donning new equipment during traffic stops and patrols beginning later this week.
The Department has officially received 241 body cameras. They will begin recording interactions between officers and the public by Friday.
On Monday, the Department held a demonstration for media to ask questions, find out how the cameras will be used, and how the footage will be stored.
Major Tad Peters says every front-facing officer will have a camera assigned to them, and will be an addition to all other equipment officers wear as part of his or her uniform.
“The officers that will typically be wearing them will be patrol officers. The ones you see out in uniform. That includes traffic officers, regular patrol, officers that are assigned to the downtown district; they will have cameras to wear. So, in general, anytime you see a uniformed officer out answering calls, they will be wearing cameras,” says Major Peters.
The upfront cost for the cameras, and server equipment to store the footage, was about $600,000. City Council approved the funds in October 2020.
Major Peters says the Department will need to pay about 120,000 in ongoing costs over the next four years.
“It’s been in our annual budget requests for several years…but as you’re aware, the national scenario has changed…and that has drawn more attention to it, and I believe that brought more focus onto it. City Council was able to identify funding right now, rather than putting it off down the road until something came up.”
The cameras are held on by a strong magnet that attaches from a plate that’s behind the uniform out to the device in the front.
Major Peters says officers will be receiving training this week on how to use the devices.
Each officer will be required to push a button on the camera to begin recording any interaction with the public, then press the button to stop recording when the interaction has ended.
“They will not have the ability to edit or delete or modify that video in any way. They will have it available, though, as a benefit to review later, so they can make sure that they are accurately documenting what happened in a police report.”
Watch the full demonstration of how to put on the body camera below:
But Major Peters says if an officer cannot start the recording, the footage can still be retrieved later by assigned staff.
“If there is a significant event where, maybe the officer has to be taking action as they are getting out of the car, and they can’t, or they don’t have time to think about pushing the button, we do have a backup where we’re able to go back and pull that video. Only a few limited administrators will have access to that option.”
Peters says these cameras will provide more evidence than dashboard cameras the Department has been using for years and will help hold officers and the public accountable.
“It’s a benefit to both sides of any interaction. We have complaints occasionally against our officers, and it’s always going to be helpful to get an unbiased account of what happened. We also have issues with the people we interact with – committing crimes or making statements – and they may later contradict that statement or say they didn’t make that statement. Well, that gives us an unbiased recording of that for our use as well.”
But storing and sorting hundreds of hours of footage each day will be no easy task. Peters says storing these videos forever would not be reasonable with the amount of data that’s required.
“There’s going to be a lot of extra time that goes into classifying the videos as they come in, putting them in a file based on what type of incident it was and how long they need to be retained. And then also a lot of requests we’ll have from news media outlets, from attorneys, from the courts for copies of the video.”
Peters says the Department is in the process of obtaining more personnel to enter data and handle requests. The positions will have to be added to future budgets, but for now, Peters says it will require a significant amount of extra work for existing staff.