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KU Police Officers Now Wear Body-Mounted Cameras

(Courtesy of Digital Ally)

The University of  Kansas Police Department began the new school year with eight body-mounted cameras that its officers are wearing on all patrols.

The department ordered the cameras last spring – well before the protests in Ferguson, Mo., when a police officer killed an unarmed 18-year-old black man. Since then, many have called for using the body-mounted cameras to keep police accountable.

The KU Police Department has used dashboard cameras for 20 years, said Capt. James Anguiano said. But those video cameras have limited use, for those officers in vehicles, he said.

The body-mounted cameras will assist officers who are often on foot patrol and working in heavily populated areas, he said.

“It will assist us in the documentation as well as if a situation would go to court, juries nowawadays don’t just like to hear the story from the officer, they like visual aids,” Anguiano said. “So it not only protects the officer, it protects the citizen.”

The department ordered eight cameras, at a cost of $900 each, from Digital Ally, a Lenexa company, he said.  Since the Ferguson riots, Digital Ally shares have sky-rocketed, USA Today reported

Several Kansas City-area agencies use the technology, Anguiano said. There are no figures for the number of agencies in Missouri and Kansas that use the body-mounted cameras, which are typically pager-sized and clip onto an officer’s lapel or shirt.

The ACLU supports the use of the cameras.

“Although we generally take a dim view of the proliferation of surveillance cameras in American life, police on-body cameras are different because of their potential to serve as a check against the abuse of power by police officers,” the ACLU’s Jay Stanley wrote in a 2013 paper.

Among those calling for use of the body-mounted cameras is Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has suggested that federal funding should be held from agencies that don’t use the technology.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
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