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Overland Park committee will review request to equip police officers with body cameras

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Posted at 6:48 AM, Jul 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-10 07:48:48-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — By the end of the year, every uniformed police officer in Overland Park, Kansas, could be wearing a body camera. The chief of police will make a presentation Wednesday night asking for they city's approval to buy the equipment and storage space.

During the public safety committee meeting, members will make a recommendation to the full city council. Chief Frank Donchez's plan calls for spending roughly $450,000 on 200 body-worn cameras and an additional $300,000 for cloud-based storage space for the recordings. The city council has already set aside the money as part of its budget.

Donchez recommends buying the cameras from Watch Guard instead of sending out a request for proposals from multiple companies. Currently, the cameras in squad cars and police interview rooms are from Watch Guard and Donchez said body cameras from the same company would sync seamlessly with the system.

"I know there are probably some members of the public who felt we should've done it sooner, but again the way we like to do things is to do our homework, get it right, and then launch it rather than do anything haphazardly," Donchez said.

Along with the cameras, Overland Park would adopt a policy to keep every video recording from the body cameras for 90 days. After 90 days, the department would only keep videos pertinent to a criminal case, investigation, or complaint against an officer.

Donchez said officers are on board with the idea of wearing body cameras. Some officers have been testing the Watch Guard body-worn cameras since December 2018.

"[Officers] know that it's a fact, it exonerates more officers than it convicts, by far," Donchez said. "So they know that, they welcome it, they're ready for it."

Donchez said body-worn cameras are becoming standard among police departments across the United Sates. He wants to use them in Overland Park to showcase transparency, accountability and evidence gathering. He said body-worn cameras provide more context than the in-car cameras.

The chief is quick to point out the cameras are not a magic wand, and won't solve every issue. But he is certain they will add clarity to many situations.

"The goal was to equip the uniform personnel who really are the ones dealing with the public 40 hours a week on their shift," Donchez said. "Detectives spend a lot of time in the office, the courthouse, different things. We're going to make sure we equip all of our uniform personnel who are probably the most likely to get involved in a situation you would want to have captured on camera."

The Johnson County sheriff's office, Lenexa, Kansas, and Grandview, Missouri, police departments are among agencies in the Kansas City area currently using body cameras. Both the Kansas City, Missouri, police and Lawrence, Kansas, police are both working toward adding body cameras.

The Overland Park public safety committee meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday at city hall. The meeting is open to the public.