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Momentum Grows for Police Dashboard Cameras, Body Cams in Wake of Ferguson

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Image Via
Authorities in Kentucky released a dash cam video last April for what they argued was the justifiable shooting of nineteen-year-old driver.
Much of the frustration in Ferguson since the police shooting of Michael Brown on August 9 has been with the excruciatingly slow trickle of information coming from law enforcement. On Friday -- six days after Brown was killed -- Ferguson police finally released the name of the officer, Darren Wilson, as well as an incident report suggesting that the eighteen-year-old victim had been involved in a convenience-store robbery moments before the cop's run-in with Wilson.

Authorities have yet to release, however, an incident report of the shooting or any photos of Wilson, who the Ferguson Police Department says was savagely beaten by Brown prior to the shooting. Last week the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit yesterday against St. Louis County and the St. Louis County Police Department for violation of Missouri's Sunshine Law. The ACLU requested the incident report involving Brown's death under Missouri Revised Statues 610 claiming that the report is a public record.

But regardless of when the police report of the shooting enters the public domain, there's one thing it's unlikely to contain: a police video of the incident. That's because Ferguson police do not have dash cams in their vehicles or wear body cameras as a growing number of police agencies do.

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Chad Garrison
Chief Tom Jackson speaking to reporters last week in Ferguson.
In a press conference held last Wednesday, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson acknowledged his department received a grant from the Department of Justice to purchase dashboard and body cameras and acquired two of each. But, Jackson said, the department doesn't have the money to implement the technology.

Kirk Siefert, 22, of University City, isn't satisfied with that. Last week Siefert started a petition on Change.org that has attracted a lot of attention. The petition asks that all St. Louis city and county police officers wear body cameras and record interactions with the public at all times.

See all Riverfront Times coverage of Michael Brown and Ferguson

Siefert started the petition two days after Brown's death and got 500 signatures within the first 24 hours. It's up to nearly 40,000 signatures and continues to grow by about 100 signatures every five minutes.

"I think this whole thing could have been avoided had the Ferguson police used the cameras they already purchased," Siefert said.

The petition gained so much attention that Justin Lyons, senior campaigner with Change.org, contacted him late last week to offer support. The petition is now featured on the Change.org homepage and has gained about 10,000 signatures in 24 hours.

Other police departments throughout the country, including Columbia, have started using dashboard and body cameras to record interactions with the public with much success.

Assistant Chief John Gordon of the Columbia Police Department said purchasing and implementing 102 body cameras for all his officers cost about $150,000. Columbia police began equipping its officers with body cameras earlier this summer, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. Gordon acknowledged that a few benefits of the body cameras include a greater transparency and accountability for the department, as well as more plea agreements, and therefore fewer court cases. Gordon also said the cameras can help improve the department's relationship with the community.

Police in Rialto, California, have been using cameras to record interactions with the public since 2012. According to a New York Times article, the number of complaints against police dropped by 88 percent in the first year, and the use of force by officers fell by 60 percent.

For more information, check out this report from the Police Executive Research Forum on the current state of body cameras.

Follow Mitch Ryals on Twitter @mitchryals. Email the author at mitch.ryals@riverfronttimes.com.


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41 comments
Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

Dash cam only shoots forward. Off to the side as in this case would be irrelevant

Emily Peck
Emily Peck

did they not have money before or after all the tear gas expenses? sheesh.

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JobCentrl06902

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DeAunna Toston
DeAunna Toston

But they have money for AR-14, armored trucks, camouflage uniforms

Kimberly Mix
Kimberly Mix

Nows thats the definition of insanity!!!! U purchase the tools but cant afford the installation..... Dumb!

Timothy Burch
Timothy Burch

Thats just plain wrong! No wonder they have no trust in the police. Lucky that poor looted Ferguson food mart had one!

Mona Becker
Mona Becker

I don't believe this for a second. If they lie about things like this, what else are they lying about?

Erik Olsen
Erik Olsen

Or maybe they can find out why they ordered equipment for the PD without money included for installation and training.

D'airwreck Briner
D'airwreck Briner

What does it cost to hang a string around your neck? 1,500 when government is involved

D'airwreck Briner
D'airwreck Briner

Like they don't have have mechanics! Give me a flipping break.

Shean D. Seward
Shean D. Seward

They get tanks, a bunch of flash bang, and military weaponry. But they can't set up a go cam?

Nino Brown
Nino Brown

they got money for a new jail tho! get the fuck out a here

Janelle Nixon
Janelle Nixon

@erik why did you go off on a simple comment? I didn't say anything wrong I just stated that simply Ferguson was not a priority (to them)...because if they were everything would have been in place. Wouldn't change the outcome though.

Erik Olsen
Erik Olsen

Based off of a rant his brother posted, personal glory seems to be all the damned whiteshirts care about. If one of their officers dies it just means that they get to look spiffy at the funeral and if one or more of the Little People perish, well, their jobs are easier as there are fewer potential law breakers to have to consider.

Justin Worland
Justin Worland

Yeah. I mean an MRAP is like way cheaper than a f***ing GoPro.

Erik Olsen
Erik Olsen

You also don't write a PO for department equipment without adding in installation and training to the cost of the PO...

Erik Olsen
Erik Olsen

So, RFT is catching up with Reason after last Wednesday's press conference with the Ferg PD Chief. Welcome to the conversation I ahve been trying to spark! Ferguson PD has had in their possession for several months upgraded dash cams that would also allow the new body cams - also in storage - to be used in Ferguson cruisers. The Chief said they have not had the time to get around to installing these. Then he claimed that the installation fee - $3k each set - was not covered. Which is it, are the PD not willing to go on record for their whole shift or are the folks making the contracts to purchace totally stupid?

Krystol D. Trice
Krystol D. Trice

Well, they better ask the state or federal government for the money. Installing will be cheaper than paying for lawsuits. They can fire Darren Wilson and other crooked cops and they won't have to use money on their salaries.

Janelle Nixon
Janelle Nixon

Ferguson is not a priority that's why their cams are not installed yet, let's just be real.

Krystol D. Trice
Krystol D. Trice

Yes they have the money. Ask the St. Louis Count PD to sell those damn tanks.

Karen Hall
Karen Hall

Isn`t there some sort of grant for this?

Tasha Quigley
Tasha Quigley

REALLY...How much.money you.think theyve spent on operating the military equipment,tear gas etc.JUST ANOTHER EXCUSR

Ben Thomas
Ben Thomas

Who approved the purchase of these cameras without making sure they had the funds to install them. This sounds a little fishy.

Philip Rock
Philip Rock

You dont need to go to school to install a dash cam.

Philip Rock
Philip Rock

Shit, gimmie 30 bucks and ill do it.

Kyler Thomas
Kyler Thomas

Laurell, those vehicles and equipment belong to St. Louis County PD, not Ferguson PD.

Chris Davis
Chris Davis

Laurell Stevenson I was thinking the same.

Laurell Stevenson
Laurell Stevenson

But they have money for night vision goggles and tear gas and money to keep a helicopter in the sky for hours... I call bullshit!

Eli Aubuchon
Eli Aubuchon

Someone has to pay for them... How about your paper does a fundraiser with proceeds going to the installation of the cameras Ferguson has but can't afford to install... do something constructive for once instead of constantly fuel the flames!

Bradley Hardin
Bradley Hardin

Hmm....go to a tech school, they would do it for free, just for the experience.

12judges
12judges

Absolutely Mitch.  100%.  Couldn't agree more.  One problem.  What happens when those cameras don't show the police executing young "babies" in the streets?  What happens when they actually reveal unauthorized lethal force by police is more the exception than the narrative you're pushing?  What happens when it shows there's a lot of unwarranted and unacceptable police provocation by young black males in these communities? What happens when the cameras show black on black crime is indeed...more legendary than abuse by police?  What happens when the ability of the (mostly white) media to use race as a political wedge to further divide the country evaporates when people actually see the truth, not the narrative?

I'm confident this won't cause a problem though because the RFT will be there to report on each incident equitably and fairly.  Hell, put a counter on the front page so we can keep score!  More cameras...I'm all for them!!!!!!!!

c.mills1412
c.mills1412

It took my FD department a year to install 30 dash cams... Everything cost money! The cameras are cheap, its the operating technology cost that makes expensive. Cameras have to be 100% tamper proof and managed by an outside company. We all know how easy is it to tamper with video. Also, the "tanks and AR's" were most likely mutual aid from surrounding areas and the national guard. 


Honestly you people have no idea what's going on....... I'm just wasting my time.... Honestly, who need police? Ferguson can obviously manage itself. 

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