Several Kansas City area police and law enforcement agencies already equip their patrol and field officers with body-mounted cameras. Others are considering their options.
Lenexa began using the cameras in 2009 with six officers. This year, 85 officers use the cameras.
“It has been helpful presenting evidence in court and things of that nature,” said Officer Dan Friesen, a department spokesman. “It is an added tool, but it is not the end-all, be-all.”
Other agencies that use body cameras include the Grandview, Leawood, Merriam and Raytown police departments, the sheriff’s offices in Wyandotte and Clay counties and campus police at the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Kansas State University.
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“They have limitations, too, just like anything else, but I think overwhelmingly they are pretty good for what their purpose is,” Friesen said.
Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté said he was pleased that President Barack Obama would seek funding to equip more officers with the body cameras.
“From me going around talking to different officers, they welcome the technology,” Forté said. “It is nothing new for the officers to be mic’d up and to be on video.
“They are out there doing the right thing, putting their lives on the line every day. … So they welcome any technology to show that they are doing the right thing.”
Forté recently created a work group to study the feasibility of body cameras. He wants to expand the group to include residents, prosecutors, civil liberties advocates and others in the community.
“If it (the technology) is not used properly, then people don’t know what the expectations and what the limitations are, then it can be detrimental to an organization, especially in Kansas City, where we are building trust now,” he said.
Police departments in Overland Park and Kansas City, Kan., do not use body cameras. Spokesmen for both departments said they were exploring various options.
“If the (federal) government would be willing to help cover some of the cost, then we would certainly request help to pay for the technology,” said Officer Gary Mason, an Overland Park police spokesman.
Cost also has been a factor for Kansas City, Kan. “Getting them and not being able to maintain them would be pointless,” Sgt. Emmett Lockridge said.