Lawrence Police Department to begin testing body cameras soon

photo by: Associated Press

In this file photo from April 26, 2017, a police officer wears a body camera during a news conference in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Some Lawrence police officers will soon begin testing body cameras in preparation for a department rollout.

A memo to the City Commission from earlier this summer stated that the anticipated body camera testing period would be September through November, and police department representatives say preparations to begin testing are underway. The body camera program will be fully implemented sometime next year, according to the memo.

Police Capt. Trent McKinley said in an email to the Journal-World Monday that though there is not a date yet for when testing will begin, the intention is to keep the schedule as close to the September to November time frame as possible. He said the department hoped to start testing as soon as possible.

“We are working on the logistical piece of that now and hope to conclude testing around the end of the year,” McKinley said.

The city has budgeted to spend about $500,000 on implementing the body camera program, including funds to purchase the cameras and about $45,000 for a technician who was to begin halfway through the year. McKinley said the department hired that technician the first week of July.

McKinley said that members of the department met with camera vendors earlier this month and that the top three vendors would move to the test and evaluation phase. He said the department planned to test 10-12 cameras from each vendor.

“The bulk of those cameras will be deployed to patrol officers, though other staff will also assist in evaluating the products, including our information technology staff and others,” McKinley said.

Half the money to purchase the cameras themselves, which are budgeted to cost $462,000, will be funded by a federal grant. The U.S. Justice Department is providing $231,000 toward the purchase, and the City of Lawrence is matching those funds.

Before any testing can begin, though, the police department will have to have a comprehensive policy in place. As part of the federal grant, the Department of Justice requires a “well thought out and comprehensive policy development process,” according to the memo. The memo states that the police department submitted a first draft of the policy to the Department of Justice in March.

The policy is still being revised, and McKinley said the police department would continue to communicate with the Department of Justice and discuss potential changes. He said the police department did not generally have the City Commission review department policies. The police department will be seeking approval from the Department of Justice before the test and evaluation phase begins and the policy will be updated once a camera model is selected.

McKinley said the police department would be testing a variety of body cameras, including different mounting and activation options. He said some cameras may also tie into the police department’s in-car cameras, which activate automatically when the car’s overhead lights are turned on.


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