ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — After months of delays, more than 600 St. Louis police officers are now wearing body cameras.
“It’s really important because it’s the proof, it’s the proof for people, especially for Black people,” said St. Louis resident Markasha Harris.
Harris believes it’s long overdue for police to wear body cameras. She worries the cameras won’t be used properly.
“What if they turn those body cameras off? What if they don’t stick to what they’re supposed to even with the body camera?” said Harris.
St. Louis City police were not able to respond to that question Wednesday. A spokesperson said they would follow up.
The department said 635 body cameras have been distributed to officers beginning in November of 2020. Another 165 are ready and waiting for officers who are on military leave, sick, or haven’t yet graduated.
Not every officer will receive a camera, only those who interact regularly with the public, which includes patrol officers, the SWAT team, traffic safety officers, and the Metrolink unit.
This comes as a growing list of departments in the St. Louis area buy cameras as public pressure grows for more transparency.
“I think it’s important to protect the citizen as well as the officer as well as the city,” said Lieutenant Todd Melugin with Shrewsbury Police.
Shrewsbury police is the latest department in St. Louis County to invest in body cameras, paying $181,000 to get all 20 officers equipped.
“The cameras can be activated as you’re getting out of the car. Dispatch can do a ‘geo fence’ so if we’re having an incident in a certain area, any car that comes into that geo fence will automatically activated,” said Melugin.
Shrewsbury is still finalizing its policy regarding the body cameras, which includes possible disciplinary action if an officer were to forget to turn on the camera.
Melugin hopes to have the cameras on and recording in the next few months.
The Shrewsbury Fire Department is also investing about $61,000 to buy cameras for their vehicles that will be used in situations where they respond to scenes.
News 4 asked St. Louis police if citizens could obtain footage from the body cameras if they believe there was an inappropriate interaction with an officer. According to the department’s policy, citizens can fill out a sunshine request for the footage, but it is not guaranteed it will be granted.