Six Years After Ferguson, St. Louis Cops Could Start Using Body Cams

The city of St. Louis is on the brink of equipping its police force with body cameras.

The City Hall's Board of Estimate and Apportionment is currently deciding on the first-year budget and implementation plan for a five-year, $5 million deal with the company Utility Associates meant to equip police with body cameras, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The move comes nearly six years after the August 9, 2014 shooting of black 18-year-old Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson in the neighboring city of Ferguson. The event sparked days of protests for greater police accountability and oversight.

Jacob Long, spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said 800 cameras could be in use by the police forces as early as July. The five-year deal also includes at 200 dashboard cameras for police cars.

A joint committee of city officials and members of the St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOU), the local police union, will now have to meet to discuss policies regarding the cameras and their recorded footage before they can start being used.

police body cameras Ferguson Missouri
Washington DC Metropolitan Police Officer Debra Domino wears one of the new "body-worn cameras" that the city's officers will begin using during a press conference announcing the details of the program September 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The MPD's use of the cameras is intended to accurately document events, actions, conditions, and statements made during citizen encounters, traffic stops, arrests, and other incidents with the city's police officers. Win McNamee/Getty

While body cameras are seen as a way to monitor and discipline police for misconduct, their effectiveness in deterring misbehavior largely depends on the policies developed for their use, including whether they can be turned off and the speed at which community advocates can access their footage, according to ASIS Online, a website for security management professionals.

In the past, the SLPOU has worried that body cameras could deny officers due process hearings for alleged misconduct or penalize officers for "minor violations" like not wearing seat belts, the Post-Dispatch wrote.

Newsweek reached out to the St. Louis Police Department for further information. This story will be updated with any response.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday, Krewson, Police Chief John Hayden and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards emphasized that the city police hasn't trained or sanctioned officers to use chokeholds and that the department instituted training on de-escalation tactics, implicit bias and racial equity back in 2014.

Furthermore, the joint statement said officers should be taught to minimize the use of force while protecting life during duty. It also voiced support for a national registry for officer misconduct as well as the hiring of mental and behavioral health specialists to assist police.

Concurrently, local police reform activists are pushing city councilmembers to de-fund the St. Louis Medium Security Institution, a detainment facility known locally as "the workhouse," over views that the facility is inhumane.

The city's proposed 2021 budget, which is currently under consideration, would cut city funding for the facility from $16 million to $8.8 million.