Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Lawmakers Focus on Officer Body-Camera Mandate ; Police: Counties near Kansas City Already Using New Technology

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Lawmakers Focus on Officer Body-Camera Mandate ; Police: Counties near Kansas City Already Using New Technology

Article excerpt

The cost and operational details of a bill requiring Kansas law enforcement officers to be outfitted with sophisticated body cameras is the subject of a political shootout at the Capitol.

The Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee gathered testimony this week from supporters of the legislation and scheduled commentary Monday from opponents of the bill. Similar proposals have gained popularity in the wake of highly publicized police shootings.

Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said the bill was designed to provide a measure of protection and transparency for municipal, county and state law enforcement officers, as well as people those men and women were sworn to protect.

"I do believe this is the wave of the present," Haley said. "I believe that this is the wave of the future."

Senate Bill 18 stipulates officers would be equipped with a body camera while on patrol duty. Images would be stored in a computer network. The cameras could be turned off by officers to avoid capturing mundane daily activities that have nothing to do with public safety.

Law enforcement agencies in Johnson and Wyandotte counties are using body cameras.

Maj. Dawn Layman, a Lenexa police officer, said she endorsed deployment of the small devices. While testifying Thursday before the Senate committee, she was wearing a $900 model. Lenexa started using the cameras in 2009.

"You do your officers a disservice if you don't get the technology," she said. "Law enforcement gets the fact that the technology is needed."

However, Layman opposed a statewide mandate. She said smaller departments facing budget challenges need freedom to prioritize equipment expenditures.

The Kansas Highway Patrol estimated implementation of the bill would cost about $1.4 million in the upcoming fiscal year for equipment, personnel and training. Ongoing maintenance would cost the agency $870,000 annually.

Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, said the Senate committee ought to consider asset forfeiture, DUI penalties and financial sanctions under Jessica's Law to help finance the camera mandate. …

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