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Body Cams For Kansas City Cops Are One Step Closer To Reality

Protesters go face-to-face with police officers at around 7:35 p.m.
Carlos Moreno
Protesters go face-to-face with police officers during recent demonstrations near the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City.

The City Council unanimously approved a body cam resolution following nearly two weeks of protests over police brutality and racism.

The Kansas City Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday that, if finalized, would require Kansas City Police officers to wear body cameras during any interactions with citizens

The resolution, pushed by Mayor Quinton Lucas after weeks of protests over police brutality and racism, tasks the city manager to work with KCPD on how many cameras are needed, how they would be paid for and rules on their maintenance.

The city manager would then report the findings back to council fourteen days after it takes effect.

“I think this is an important step for us and then certainly making sure as this program becomes permanent, the type of accountability measures we'd like in connection with it, so I apprecate the committee's passage and I would ask for your support," Lucas said during Thursday's meeting.

The council's vote came as demonstrators are calling for major reforms within KCPD, coinciding with nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

Thursday's resolution went through several revisions as concerns about storage of the videos from body cams were raised as well as privacy issues. The data would be made available to other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors on a case-by-case basis.

Lucas, alongside KCPD Chief Rick Smith, announced during a demonstration last week that $2.5 million dollars had been donated to the city to fund body cams. Lucas had said earlier that obtaining the cameras could not be done without federal funding.

The impetus for getting body cams comes in response to the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. Floyd's death has sparked protests around the blog, including several days and nights of protests in and around Mill Creek Park, which resulted in more than 150 arrests.

There's been widespread criticism of how KCPD initially dealt with demonstrators in the protests' early days, especially officers' use of tear gas and pepper spray.

So far, Chief Smith has given no indication that he will step down, though local civil rights groups have called for his resignation.

In a rare move, Lucas penned an open letter this week to KCPD. In it, he thanked the department and wrote, "You have more support than you know from more corners of the community than you may think.”

The letter concluded, "May God bless our city and may God keep you and yours safe.”

The Kansas City Council is also considering another measure related to the recent protests. An ordinance would grant amnesty to all non-violent protesters taken into police custody.

It's opposed by the local Fraternal Order of Police. The ordinance is expected to come before the council next week.

Bill Grady has worked in Kansas City media for decades, reporting on local issues including city government, police and the fire department.
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