Within two weeks, about half of St. Louis County police officers will be recording every call for service using tiny video cameras on their chests, glasses or collars, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Several companies are lending free technology to police departments in hope of landing lucrative contracts in an industry that surged after a national outcry about the Ferguson police shooting. In St. Louis County, 188 police officers will be using cameras. About two dozen officers got cameras and training yesterday. Chief Jon Belmar said his goal is to have all 465 patrol officers wearing them as soon as possible. St. Louis County will be among the nation’s largest police forces to deploy the technology to all its officers.
For the next 90 days, the department will experiment with different types of cameras and approaches. Some officers will be assigned cameras, some will share among shifts. The experience will help officials decide which devices to buy, and how many. “Given the events in Ferguson and the skepticism that's been directed at law enforcement, we have to take steps to ensure the public trust,” Belmar said. Noting the wide prevalence of surveillance and cellphone video, he added, “There are cameras on us all the time. Why wouldn't we want to take advantage of this and make sure it's in context?” The devices cost from $300 to $700. Belmar said his department likely will use money seized from criminals to buy them. “This is something that should have happened years ago, but didn't because of funding restraints,” he said. Some departments have used cameras for years, and research shows they result in fewer citizen complaints and fewer use-of-force incidents, said Michael White, a criminologist at Arizona State University.