Lawrence City Commission to consider purchasing body cameras for police department

photo by: Associated Press

In this file photo from July 3, 2019, a Phoenix police officer reaches for an Axon Body 2 body camera as another precinct gets their cameras assigned to them. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

City leaders will soon consider a contract to purchase body cameras for all Lawrence police officers.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider authorizing the police department to enter into a five-year contract with Axon Enterprises Inc. for $1.26 million, which will be funded in part by a $231,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, according to a city staff memo to the commission. The contract covers the purchase of 154 body cameras and associated software and hardware and will outfit all members of the police force with a camera.

The first year of the contract with Axon Enterprises includes the purchase of the cameras and will cost $462,000; years two through five of the contract will cost $200,0000 annually. To cover the first year of the contract, the city will need to match the $231,000 federal grant, according to the memo. Ongoing operational costs for future years were not included in the grant award, and the city will be responsible for those costs.

The memo states that the grant required a competitive selection process for the cameras and that a three-month test and evaluation process concluded earlier this year. The police department tested a variety of body cameras, including different mounting and activation options, as the Journal-World previously reported.

Police Capt. Trent McKinley told the Journal-World in an email that the body cameras from Axon are activated by both manual and automatic triggers. He said the officer can activate the camera by pressing a button on the device itself and the camera system is also activated automatically when the officer turns on the overhead lights of marked patrol vehicles or the device detects the sound of a gunshot.

The Department of Justice must approve the police department’s policy for using the body cameras, and the City Commission also indicated last fall that it would like to review the policy and provide input prior to its adoption by the police department. Body camera policies generally determine aspects such as when cameras are turned on, what happens with the footage that is captured and how much discretion the police department has in those decisions. The memo states the policy will be publicly released before the cameras are put into use, which will be in the first quarter of 2020.

McKinley said the Department of Justice had approved the policy framework the police department has developed thus far. He said final edits related to specifics of the model purchased have not yet been made and will be added when the purchase is approved. He said he anticipates the public presentation regarding the police department’s new body camera program and policies related to use of the cameras will include the City Commission.

The City Commission will convene at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.

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