As Kansas University students returned to campus on Monday, the KU Police Department began using body-mounted cameras to record interactions during patrol shifts, KUPD Captain James Anguiano said.
People across the country have been calling for law enforcement agencies to use body-mounted cameras since the Aug. 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., but Anguiano said the KUPD purchased the new technology in April.
“We’ve had dashboard cameras for 20 years and knew that in the long run it would be good to have body-mounted cameras, as well,” Anguiano said. “We do a lot of policing on foot patrol in campus buildings and heavily populated areas.”
The KUPD spent more than $7,000 to buy eight cameras this spring to outfit all officers on duty at any given time, Anguiano said. Officers spent the summer testing the new technology before introducing it Monday.
It is now department policy for KUPD officers to wear the body-mounted cameras at all times during their shifts, Anguiano said. While the cameras are constantly recording, officers must press a button to save the footage, Anguiano said.
Anguiano said the cameras will aid with the court process.
“Sometimes defense attorneys will have a client who says one thing, but the video shows something else,” Anguiano said. “This technology should save time for everybody in not having to go to court for certain incidents.”
When cases do go to court, Anguiano said it is helpful to have video instead of just testimony.
“Any more, a lot of jurors like to see first-hand what happens,” Anguiano said. “It gives the audience a chance to see what was going on at the scene.”
The KUPD is the only law enforcement agency serving Lawrence to use body-mounted cameras. While the Lawrence Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas Highway Patrol have dashboard cameras and wireless microphones that work even when officers aren't in the immediate vicinity of their vehicles, they do not use body-mounted cameras.
Anguiano said he thinks the cost of the cameras is the reason other law enforcement agencies don’t use body-mounted cameras. With a department of only 16 officers, Anguiano said it was more feasible for the KUPD to make the purchase than it would be for larger agencies.
“It’s not a hard sell in a police department to implement anything that could enhance officer and public safety or help with the court system,” Anguiano said. “It’s an easy decision. It just always comes down to the bottom line of budget.”