The St. Charles County Council tackled the pertinent issue of police body cameras at its July 26 meeting. The council heard testimony and explanatory witness from the county’s Director of Administration JoAnne Leykam and County Police Chief Kurt Frisz. County Sheriff Scott A. Lewis and Director of Corrections Daniel Keen also attended the meeting but did not speak.
After Leykam explained the financial and administrative ramifications of the purchase and use of the body cameras, Frisz explained the efficacy of the cameras and their importance. He noted that the unrest in Ferguson in 2014 brought the issue to a head. He admitted that the county was “certainly not ahead of the curve” on body cameras, as they have been in use for some time by some municipal police agencies. However, he said the county could get ahead of the curve going forward with a commitment to body cameras.
Frisz showed the crowd a promotional video from Body Worn, the company awarded the county contract. He extolled the virtues of the Body Worn equipment, particularly its officer safety features. Frisz said the cameras would be integrated into the officers’ uniforms, and had been tested thoroughly in order to make sure that they would work correctly and could not be easily knocked loose or disabled in the event of a physical confrontation with a suspect. The cameras also function as essential GPS devices, allowing the department to know where an officer is at all times for security reasons.
Leykam said that the county initially received responses from seven companies that were interested in the contract. After much preliminary testing, considerations and negotiations, two companies came out ahead. BodyWorn won out after a rigorous set of tests by the police department. Leykam stressed that the selection process had been open and transparent, with full participation from the county’s police department, sheriff’s department and corrections department.
Leykam also noted that body camera equipment is moving at warp speed these days. This initial contract runs for five years; however, after the five-year period, the county may choose to renew the contract, or alternately could shop around for a better offer, sounder equipment, or any of a number of other reasons. She suggested that flexibility was a prudent policy, since the body camera technology is changing quickly and dramatically, and that keeping options open would be a highly commendable policy.
The council unanimously approved Body Worn’s bid at a cost of $2,535,000.