ST. LOUIS — St. Louis police could be wearing body cameras within 60 to 90 days after a city board vote Wednesday, but many details still need to be worked out.
During a contentious meeting, the St. Louis Board of Estimate and Apportionment approved a contract with Axon, formerly known as TASER International, which will provide 1,300 cameras and other equipment and data storage for a year for free, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported . After the year, the city could return the cameras and equipment or pay $1,000 per camera to continue using them. The city would pay $1.3 million per year for the cameras and would control all the data.
The details yet to be discussed include privacy concerns and an agreement with the police union.
Frustrated at years of debate of the issue, Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed said 75 percent of major police departments in the country had the cameras and “and we’re still discussing them.” He argued the cameras would benefit both police officers and citizens by increasing transparency and showing what happened during confrontations between police and citizens.
The other two board members, Mayor Lyda Krewson and Comptroller Darlene Green, complained that they were given an 11-page contract just hours before the meeting. When they expressed concern about contract details and the speed at which Reed was moving, angry members of the crowd shouted them down and demanded an immediate vote.
“Take care of it now. Now!” one man demanded.
Green eventually proposed that the board vote to solicit bids for a long-term camera program to be final by the end of the year. After more debate, Reed combined the proposals and the vote was approved, drawing cheers and applause.
After the meeting, Green said she was seeking a long-term solution and wanted to “knock the politics aside.”
Reed said failing to approve the trial would have caused “more turmoil” in a city roiled by protests after a judge last week acquitted a white former St. Louis police officer in the shooting death of a black suspect. He said the one-year trial program could be implemented without the approval of the police union because a smaller trial was approved and conducted previously.
Krewson disagreed, saying the contract required the union’s approval. She said Reed forced the issue on the board via a “very unusual process” or putting forth a contract, but called body cameras an “important tool.”
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com