Police officers here (Ferguson) began wearing body cameras on Saturday as marchers took to the streets in the most recent protest of a shooting three weeks earlier by a city officer that left an unarmed teenager dead.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said his department was given about 50 body cameras by two companies, Safety Visions and Digital Ally, about a week ago. The companies donated the body cameras after the fatal shooting on Aug. 9 of Michael Brown Jr. by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson.
Company representatives were at the police department on Saturday training officers to use the devices, which attach to uniforms and record video and audio. Some members of the police department have been specially trained on the devices’ use.
“We are still playing with them,” Jackson said.
The cameras are being assigned to squads, and each officer will get one to use, he said.
Jackson said the officers had the devices on during the protest march on Saturday and were able to capture video images of crowd members taunting officers.
“The quality is good,” he said.
The batteries in the cameras that were used on Saturday were drained because of their constant use throughout the day. “Under normal use the battery would last a full shift,” Jackson said.
Officers are receptive to the cameras, the chief said. “They are really enjoying them,” he said. “They are trying to get used to using them.”
The police department bought three dash-mount cameras but lacks the money to install them, he said.
Video recordings are seen as a way to allow judges and juries to follow police-involved events as they unfold, helping to shed light through the often-conflicting or hazy recollections of witnesses.
In the wake of Brown’s shooting, other police departments in the St. Louis area are also moving toward the use of wearable cameras. Ellisville approved a $7,500 expenditure shortly after the shooting to buy cameras for its officers.
They are also catching on elsewhere. Last month, a New York City official championed a $5 million pilot program to outfit 15 percent of the city’s police officers with wearable cameras.
Meanwhile, 152,000 people have signed a petition to establish a national “Mike Brown Law” requiring all police to wear cameras. stltoday.com