The Hazelwood Police Department (HPD) is inviting local residents to attend a community meeting at City Hall, 415 Elm Grove Lane, on Mon., July 24, at 7 p.m. Department officials would like to give citizens a brief overview of their progress in developing a body-worn camera (BWC) system for their police officers. And, they would like to hear feedback from the public.
In Feb. 2016, the HPD completed the application for a federal grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) for over $56,000 to help defray the costs of implementing a body-worn camera system. In Oct. 2016, the department received notice that they had been awarded a federal 50% matching grant from the BJA for $56,000. The City of Hazelwood will be responsible for adding a matching amount to make the total $112,000. In addition, the HPD was given a “green light” to begin the initial steps in the Policy and Implementation Program.
As part of the grant award, the HPD is required to conduct public outreach and stakeholder meetings. The department is also working with partners at the federal level as well as professionals in education, policy development, training and technical services to develop, incorporate and provide sustaining evidence-based BWC practices.
Law enforcement agencies across the country and worldwide are using BWCs as a promising tool to help improve law enforcement interactions with the public. BWCs can provide a visual and audio record of interactions. Some preliminary evidence indicates that the presence of BWCs helps strengthen accountability, transparency, and can assist in de-escalating conflicts, resulting in more constructive encounters between the police and members of the community.
The HPD is finishing the process of developing its policy regard BWCs. But the department wants to hear the opinions expressed from residents before its policy is finalized and sent to the BJA for evaluation and approval.
During the meeting, speakers will provide the audience with a brief history of how the department has used cameras and recording devices in the past. They will also describe what are BWCs and how these devices are worn on the officers’ uniforms to capture interaction during law enforcement contacts. There are various ways of wearing cameras such as on the chest, mounted on eyeglasses or the neck, and clipped to the belt. In addition, a discussion about the pros and cons of implementing a BWC program will take place as well as issues about privacy and who will have access to the camera video footage.
The department’s ultimate goal is to purchase BWCs for all Uniformed Patrol Officers and Traffic Unit Officers, which would total about 45. This would include patrol supervisors as well. The HPD projects the actual purchase of cameras to take place in early to mid-2018.
For more information about this community meeting on BWCs, contact Lt. Tim Burger at (314) 838-5000.