St. Louis police could soon be wearing body cameras.
City leaders voted Wednesday on a one-year trial program, introduced by Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed.
Reed reached a deal with the company Axon to equip every city officer with a camera for free, for one year. After that, the city could decide whether to lease the cameras for a cost of $1,000 per year, per camera.
The vote came before the Board of Estimates and Apportionment Wednesday, which includes Reed, Mayor Lyda Krewson, and Comptroller Darlene Green.
The meeting was marked by shouting from the crowd, and even some yelling between city officials, who all said they wanted body cameras for officers but disagreed on the best way to implement a plan. Ultimately board members voted to enter the body camera trial program – with some additions.
“I think it’s going to help us as a city,” Reed said after the meeting. “We need this to heal, we need this so that people feel more confidence in our police department and our police department can work better with our citizens. And it is absolutely critical this time that we do that.”
The city also will immediately begin the formal process of finding a long-term solution for body cameras. That includes finding funding and starting a formal bid process, with a goal to have a plan by the end of the year. The city could decide to remain with the trial program company or find some other program.
Members of the public packed the meeting, often shouting at the board members requesting a vote. The crowd included protesters, faith leaders, and some people who said their family members were killed in a police shooting.
Coffee Wright was in the crowd, and said she is relieved to have even a temporary body camera program approved by city officials.
“We’d rather have a temporary solution, to a long-term problem, than no solution, because we are dying in record numbers,” she said. “If this company doesn’t work out, get them out. Get another company.”
The St. Louis Police Officers Union says they get a say in implementing this trial program, too.
Previously, the business manager, Jeff Roorda said the union has an open mind to the body cameras. However, he said the union still has concerns about due process and privacy for police and citizens.