Officer with body-worn camera

A $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance is funding 247 body-worn cameras for seven police departments in St. Louis County. The Regional Justice Information Services spearheaded the initiative, and the UMSL Police Department received 24 cameras, one for every officer. (Photo courtesy of Paul Anderson)

This month, University of Missouri–St. Louis Police Department officers will add a new piece of equipment to their uniforms: body-worn cameras.

Executive Officer of the Bureau of Police Standards and Technology Paul Anderson said the deployment of body cameras is part of a regional effort and the result of much hard work that dates back to 2018.

UMSL PD received 24 cameras – one for every officer in the department – as part of a federal grant program. The Regional Justice Information Services spearheaded the initiative, securing a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

REJIS serves as a data warehouse for all criminal law enforcement in the region and had the ability to approach the grant from a regional perspective. In total, the grant funded 247 cameras for seven police departments in St. Louis County including: Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department, Brentwood Police Department, Clayton Police Department, Moline Acres Police Department, Richmond Heights Police Department, Town & Country Police Department and UMSL PD.

In addition to covering the purchase of the new cameras, the grant also includes a five-year service contract for maintenance.

Anderson noted that this is the first multi-departmental grant for body cameras approved by the BJA. He added that the cameras are an important step toward keeping the department accountable and maintaining a high standard of policing. The move also puts UMSL in line with the three other University of Missouri System Police Departments, which have deployed the technology.

“It helps us accurately document what our officers are doing,” Anderson said. “It also maintains our commitment to transparency. That was a big deal for us. We’re internationally accredited, and we have been for 20 years. This just keeps us moving forward to be on the forefront with our commitment to transparency.”

Obtaining a camera for every officer was a key aspect of the grant.

“It gave us the ability to get cameras for the entire department versus sharing cameras,” Anderson said. “There are several times during the year that the bulk of our staff is working at commencements or even high school graduations that come to campus. If we were to share cameras, there could potentially be people without cameras on. This gave us the economy of scale to purchase enough for the entire department.”

UMSL PD officials met with the UMSL Faculty Senate and University Assembly, the Staff Association and the Student Government Association to inform members of the pending  deployment. However, Anderson said there should be no noticeable change on campus.

The cameras will not be used on general patrol and will only be activated when an officer becomes engaged in a police activity or interaction. Any video recording data will be stored on a dedicated department server and held for 30 days in accordance with the Missouri Police Clerks Records Retention Schedule, unless it’s needed for court proceedings, litigation holds or active investigations.

Officers are in the final stages of training now and will begin wearing cameras soon.

“It’s another tool in our toolbox,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a belt full of tools, and now we’ve got a camera that’s also assisting us in what we do.”

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