Board to vote on body cams for STL City police

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Whether St. Louis Metropolitan Police wear body cameras could come down to one vote Wednesday.

After days of protests, a sense of urgency is growing once again for answers to restore trust between law enforcement, the courts and some in the community.

“People want to see some reforms in our criminal justice system. They want to see levels of transparency,” said Lewis Reed, president of the St. Louis Board of Alderman.

Body cameras have been used by police in other cities to provide greater transparency to the public, in an attempt to improve trust between police and the community.

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Reed said one way to achieve transparency is by being able to see what officers see. He wants the board to vote on Wednesday in favor of a trial agreement for police body cameras.

He said the entire system would be free for a year, and at the end, St. Louis can return it for virtually nothing.

“We are not closed minded," said Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association. "We are certainly willing to talk about body cameras. In fact the union contract requires both sides to talk about those things.”

Roorda said, even though he has heard the cameras are initially free, his concerns include cost, due process to officers and privacy rights of the public.

In the St. Louis area, police departments in Wentzville, Arnold and St. Charles City confirmed they use body cameras.

Across the nation, the following 10 cities have or are rolling out body cam systems from the same company offering the year free system to St. Louis:  Denver, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago, San Diego, San Antonio,  Memphis, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles.

“If you look  at some of the data from other cities that have implemented them they see use of force drop dramatically and people's confidence within the police department begin to rise,” Reed said.

We asked Mayor Lyda Krewson and Interim Police Chief Lawrence O'Toole for their responses to the police worn body cameras.

Mayor Krewson's office said it has no response at this time.

O'Toole's office had not responded in time for our broadcast. But afterwards, it said in a statement:

“The department does not have body cameras.  In 2016, the Department participated in a body camera pilot program.  Securing funding for body camera program has been an issue for the department."

However, it has not responded about the reason the free program proposed would not be favorable.

The city comptroller has not responded to our request on whether she favors Reed's body cam plan.

The comptroller, mayor and Alderman president are expected to vote on Wednesday. A majority will determine the outcome.

The meeting is at 2 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall in room 208.  The meeting is public.