Recent events, both locally and nationally, have shown an increasing trend toward police activities being video and audio recorded by citizens of our communities. These recordings are often the basis of citizen complaints about infractions such as discourtesy or excessive force. Smartphone technology is the usual method of recording. As such, these recordings often do not capture an entire event, they are easily uploaded to social media, and they create an inaccurate depiction of a police encounter that is immediately available for public review. In an effort to provide a more accurate record of police encounters, foster the improvement of police-community relations, establish transparency, and improve the quality of evidence brought into criminal prosecutions, many law enforcement agencies across the country have begun to outfit their uniformed officers with body-worn cameras. In accordance with this trend, the City of University City Police Department has undertaken a Body-Worn Camera project. Due to the social sensitivities of this project and the financial burden that the city will come to bear, this project cannot be successful without extensive consideration being given to technology, policies, legal issues, and fiscal support.
The objective of the Body-Worn Camera project is to develop and implement a system that will provide audio and video technologies to be worn by uniformed road personnel. An additional objective is the development of a digital data management system. The primary benefits sought from a BWC program include more accurate reporting of police/public interactive incidents, transparency, and continuing efforts toward furthering police-community relations.
After numerous trial periods with highly recommended companies, it was determined that WatchGuard Inc. is the company of choice for the purchase of eighty (80) V300 body-worn cameras. The Police Department will provide in-house hosting on a secure onsite server to reduce the costs of annual cloud storage fees. The Police Department currently has 22 in-car cameras with WatchGuard Inc.
The new offering boasts a camera that has pre-event recording and is Wi-Fi- and GPS enabled. This ultra-rugged body-worn camera with simple controls allows officers to capture high-quality video evidence individually or as part of an integrated in-car system. Due to the functionality, customer service, constant viewing feature, and syncing feature to the current in-car system, WatchGuard Inc. would fit the needs of the police department.
The University City Council moved forward with a plan to equip all members of the Police Department with body-worn cameras. During the September 14th, 2020 University City Council Meeting, the Council unanimously decided to immediately begin steps to equip all sworn officers with cameras. The initiative is estimated to cost approximately $200,000, and ongoing yearly costs of $19,500 dollars depending on the types of camera technology used.
Commonly Asked Questions:
1. What is a body-worn camera and where will officers mount it?
A body-worn camera is a small camera mounted on the uniform of a police officer which will objectively record interactions between law enforcement officers and citizens. The cameras will either be mounted on the center of the officer's chest or on the helmet of our traffic officers.
2. What is the brand of body-worn camera used by the University City Police Department?
The brand of camera is Watchguard
3. Will all police interactions are recorded? What if someone does not want to be recorded?
With few exceptions’ officers are encouraged to record all law enforcement-related contacts with the public. Police officers will activate their body cameras whenever they respond to calls for service or have citizen contacts where they anticipate taking law enforcement action. There will be some exceptions, e.g. crime victims, where obtaining the statement from the victim outweighs the need to have the encounter recorded.
4. Are officers required to tell citizens they are being video recorded?
Officers are not required to advise citizens they are being recorded. Citizens should assume interactions are recorded.
5. Do the body cameras record both auto and video?
6. Can anyone edit the video?
The original version of the video cannot be edited by anyone, including system administrators. Redacted copies of the videos to blur people/objects, remove audio, and narrow the video to relevant sections can be created by authorized users. The original version of the video will remain unchanged.
7. Can anyone delete a video?
Videos can be deleted either through an automated retention system based upon the type of incident recorded or manually by a system administrator. Manual deletions will only be done after a criminal case is adjudicated in a court of law or if a recording was accidentally made in a location restricted by policy, such as a restroom. Manual deletions of accidental recordings will require command staff approval.
8. How long will the videos be retained?
Non-evidential videos will be retained based upon the current Missouri Sunshine Law Schedule. Evidential videos will be retained until the criminal case is adjudicated in a court of law or the statute of limitations has passed.
9. Who can obtain a copy of the body-worn camera video?
The release of recordings to any person shall be made in accordance with current department policy and procedures, and pursuant to requirements of applicable law, including but not limited to the Missouri Sunshine Law.
10. Why shouldn’t all videos recorded by police be made available to the public?
One of the most critical issues for people interacting with police is privacy. People often need to seek police assistance when they are going through difficult personal challenges. Certain groups of citizens have strong specific privacy protections – particularly juveniles. Victims also have privacy protections in the law, in particular, to protect them from the offender. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law for law enforcement records was developed for paper documents and never contemplated the complexities of protecting privacy in video and audio recording.
11. How does the BWC program increase police accountability if the public cannot see the videos?
Videos will increase accountability by recording interactions from start to finish and being available to those involved in the incident, partners in the criminal and civil justice system, and any government agency that investigate the police.
12. Does the department have plans to use facial recognition technology with the video from the body cameras?
The department does not have any current plans to use facial recognition technology in connection with body camera video.
13. How will the data be stored?
The video will be stored on secure servers in compliance with federal Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) standards.
Missouri Criminal Statute of Limitations
Missouri’s criminal statute of limitations sets time limits on the filing of criminal charges in the state. As it is in most states, Missouri does not place a deadline on bringing charges for crimes considered especially heinous, including murder and Class A felonies. The law says prosecutors can charge someone with one of these crimes no matter how much time has passed.
Most other felonies carry a statute of limitations of three years in Missouri. Misdemeanors generally must be prosecuted within one year, and infractions have a deadline of six months.
Missouri Revised Statutes Title XXXVIII. Crimes and Punishment; Peace Officers and Public Defenders § 556.036: Time Limitations
Murder or Class A felony: none; sexual offenses involving a person under 17 yrs. old: 10 yrs.; if fraud or breach of fiduciary duty is a material element of offense: 1-3 yrs. after discovery; official misconduct: 2-3 yrs. after the offense or public employment; other felonies: 3 yrs.
1 year; infractions: 6 months
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run
If an alleged criminal is absent from the state or in hiding, prosecution pending for same conduct lacks mental fitness: maximum 3 yr. extension
A summary of criminal statutes of limitations in Missouri:
State laws are always subject to change. While our goal is to provide the most current information available.