Little Rock police officers to wear body cameras next year

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Little Rock police officers could be wearing body cameras as early as April, the department said.

A $194,000 federal grant will pay for the cameras and video storage. The city will match the funds, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Police Chief Keith Humphrey said the department will draft a policy to put at least 150 cameras on the street after the trial period.

“We are still in the early steps of training our officers on the usage and what the expectations are,” Humphrey said. “Right now we’re in the testing and evaluation stage to see what’s best for Little Rock.”

The department has been looking to implement the use of cameras for almost five years, but funding has been a problem, Assistant Chief Alice Fulk said.

“For transparency purposes, our department has wanted them for a long time,” Fulk said. She added that the department uses dashboard cameras with audio, but now the public and the officers want more.

The department has 594 officers and 13 job vacancies, according to information provided after a Freedom of Information Act request. Humphrey said nearly 230 of those positions are for patrol officers, and about 75 officers are on the streets at a time. With 150 cameras, the department will have enough for two shifts.

Fulk noted that all cameras can be manually activated, but most also have triggers that turn the cameras on automatically. Some activate when the lights on the officer’s vehicle turn on and others activate when an officer draws his weapon.

Humphrey said he does not have a preference for on camera activation yet, but he plans to institute a policy to hold officers accountable for any interaction that is not recorded.

“If something happens and the camera isn’t on, they’re going to have to explain why,” Humphrey said.

Besides obtaining the equipment, the department must write a video release policy that complies with the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act and existing department policy.

The use of body cameras has increased over the past decade following several high-profile killings of black people by officers in cities including Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.

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