The City of Overland Park is one step closer to equipping police officers with body worn cameras.
The measure is expected to be heard and voted on by the full City Council next week.
If approved, Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez said he expects the cameras to be ready for use by the end of the year.
The department opted to skip the bidding process for body cameras and instead negotiate a price directly with WatchGuard, the company that currently supplies dash cameras for Overland Park Police vehicles.
That plan to use WatchGuard, however, has been discussed since the department purchased dash cameras in 2017, according to Councilman Logan Heley.
“We’ve known for two years that we were going to use WatchGuard most likely for body cameras,” Heley said..
By using the same company for both, Donchez said the technology will easily sync together. Whenever an officer activates the emergency lights in the vehicle, the dash camera and body camera will automatically turn on. Similarly, whenever an officer activates the body camera, the dash camera will turn on if it is in range.
“We wanted something that would integrate with what we already had,” Donchez said.
Officers will be able to turn the cameras off on their own but Donchez said he has already drafted policy establishing consequences for officers who turn the cameras off without reason.
Additionally, Donchez said that if an event happens when an officer does not have camera running, the WatchGuard technology allows the department to go back about 24 hours to retrieve video.
“When devices are on, when the power is on, they’re always buffering video, so the lens is always seeing something and it’s storing it locally on the device” said Overland Park Police Captain Kyle Livengood. “When the officer presses record that’s what is making the recording.”
The video and audio are automatically stored when an officer hits record, Livengood said. If buffered video is accessed after the fact, however, the audio is not available.
Donchez said the department plans to set up a contract with WatchGuard that allows the department to replace body cameras at the same time the dash cameras will be replaced in 2022.
Donchez and Livengood said that replacement process in three years could include a bidding process.
“Given the way technology is changing I think that’s a difficult question to answer three years in advance,” Donchez said. “There may be a product that is going to come on the market in the next two years that none of us have ever seen or heard of.”
Overland Park is one of the only cities in Johnson County that has not yet implemented body cameras for officers.
Donchez said that was intentional and that the department moved slowly in an effort to be pragmatic and learn from the trials of other agencies. When the technology was first being used by police departments, Donchez said he had concerns over storage and privacy.
Now, he said, it’s something the department looks forward to implementing.
“As implementation occurs it’s certainly something we’re gonna be shouting from the rooftops,” Donchez said.
The department intends to spend no more than $430,000 to purchase the cameras and equipment. The remaining $320,000 allocated for the project will be used for additional storage space.
The Overland Park City Council is scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday. The agenda for the meeting has not yet been released.