ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV.com) — St. Louis County police officials say funding was the biggest hurdle in adding body cameras to their department, but thanks to Proposition P they were able to spend $5 million on the new cameras, which they are rolling out this week.
The phone-like camera, of which there are 700, is inside an officer’s uniform. Officers can tap it to turn it on but it’s also automatically turned on in many instances, including when they start running, when they pull their gun or when the lights and sirens of their patrol car turn on.
“It takes things out of my hand that I don’t have to do, so I can focus on my job and my duties,” said Officer Varwig with the department.
Chief Jon Belmar said the cameras will not be turned on at all times in an effort to protect victims, but officers are required to turn them on in an enforcement situation, including a traffic stop.
Five years ago, Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Mike Brown in Ferguson. When asked whether body cameras would have answered many of the questions that still loom today, Belmar said it’s tough to answer that question.
“I won’t speculate on that, it’s very difficult to do that and im not sure it’s appropriate to go back and look at that. But I will say this, and you’ve heard me say this: I think the videos provide context,” he said. “They do not answer the whole story so you can have a video of whatever event you want to take a look at, but you still have to make sure that’s paired with an investigation, that’s paired with interviews, that’s paired with insight from the officer and others. So it’s a key to it, it’s a piece of it, but I don’t think it answers every question out there.”
The roll out of the body cameras is not in connection with the five year anniversary of Mike Brown’s death. The County police have been working to get cameras for some time. But if special operations officers are assigned to any protests or demonstrations this weekend, they will be wearing them.