As other U.S. communities embrace body-worn cameras for their police officers, Kansas City is still studying the issue.
Given the benefits the equipment can provide the public and officers, use of this modern equipment should be a higher priority for the city’s Police Department.
Chief Darryl Forté earlier this week told the Board of Police Commissioners that he’s not opposed to the cameras. “We are going in that direction, but I want to do it the right way,” he said.
City Council member John Sharp told the board that police representatives at a recent national meeting of elected officials had reported several stories of success in using the cameras, especially in post-Ferguson times. One chief benefit: The cameras can increase public trust in law enforcement because they show officers often act correctly in emergency situations.
“I just hope we’re not one of the last agencies” to use the cameras, Sharp said.
Forté said he wants to review with different community groups how they hope the cameras can help protect the public as well as reveal how efficiently the police do their jobs. The chief reiterated his months-old concerns about when cameras should be turned off and on, what recordings might be publicly available and his view that officers need to want to wear the equipment.
While all of these are understandable sentiments, many other U.S. cities such as Minneapolis and Cincinnati are moving ahead with trial uses of the cameras.
The Police Executive Research Forum, which Forté mentioned at the board meeting, already has produced a 92-page report that examines many reasons departments now either use the technology or are looking into it. The group makes some of the same points that Forté has expressed in urging a systematic approach to buying the cameras.
However, the report also includes 33 recommendations on how to proceed and says citizens increasingly will want this kind of technology to help hold their police forces accountable.
Kansas City’s police board should make sure Forté and his department are moving smartly ahead to put body cameras to work.