KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department now has a new tool to improve community relations through increased transparency: body cameras.
It's a tool that's been a couple years in the making.
KCK Mayor David Alvey says there were several obstacles in getting the cameras.
First, the department didn't have enough money and had to get a federal grant. The city also realized it needed more fiber capacity.
The COVID-19 pandemic also caused the company who manufacturers the cameras to experience a delay.
Now that the cameras have arrived, the department isn't wasting any time in getting officers outfitted and trained with the new devices.
They will be affixed to the front of each officer's uniform, and will be sync up to three additional cameras in patrol cars.
"So, if we are in the patrol car and we make a stop, as soon as we turn those lights on there are three cameras total now in the patrol car. All four cameras turn on at the same time," KCKPD public information officer Thomas Tomasic said.
Those tools will add multiple vantage points of a given situation, but they didn't come cheap.
"No, it’s almost $2 million already in cost sunk into this. And it will continue to cost because we will have to have a cloud storage to be able to retrieve the video," Alvey said.
Still, Alvey and KCKPD Chief Michael York agree it's money well spent.
Now that the department has the cameras, York is hoping the public will take him up on his offer to explain how they work, along with what they can and cannot do.
"I would encourage the community and the businesses in the community, groups in the neighborhood, other groups to reach out to the police department," York said. "And we will come to your group or to your business or to your neighborhood and we will show you how these body worn cameras work."
York said this kind of instruction can go a long way. For example, he shares that because those cameras use a wide lens, images are actually much closer than they appear.
York says body camera footage will be automatically uploaded at the end of each officer's shift.