Police body camera policy key to program’s success

WICHITA, Kansas – The 106 new body cameras for Wichita police are not out on the streets just yet as the department works with city leaders to finalize a policy for their use. It’s a policy they’ve been developing for the better part of a year.

KSN traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico earlier this year to see how that city’s police department was handling its body cameras. At the time, the Wichita Police Department was using an interim policy on how to handle its body cameras—a policy the department is still using today.

With new cameras will come a new policy.  Among the question marks; when are cams required to record and for how long? And who gets to see the footage?

KSN asked city manager Bob Layton last summer what he envisions for the policy.

“As transparent as we can possibly be as much as the process will allow us again there’s just some things I can’t control, but if you’re asking me what side do I lean on this issue, l lean towards transparency and as much information as possible,” Layton told KSN back in July.

In Albuquerque, police have been using body cams since 2011. Two officers are currently facing murder charges for killing a man all captured on officer’s cameras.

A Department of Justice report released after body camera use began in Albuquerque found reasonable cause to believe APD “engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force, including deadly force.”

“This is not a perfect technology. Body cameras are not the magic pill, they’re not going to solve all officer-involved shootings, they’re not going to solve all uses of force,” said Albuquerque police officer Tanner Tixier told KSN.

That’s why the policy, and the enforcement of it, including disciplining officers who violate the department’s camera policy, is such a vital part of the technology having a significant impact.  Council member Pete Meitzner says they are looking at best practices from other cities that use body cams to implement Wichita’s new policy.

“We’re doing a pretty thorough job it hasn’t been rushed into, other than the decision to buy them, that was not rushed but we made those decisions to go forward on that and the policy it really is, really is important,” Meitzner said.

City leaders say the public will get a chance to say how the cameras are used, in upcoming public forums.

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