The Jefferson City Police Department continues to look into upgrades to its camera systems, which would include body cameras for officers.
JCPD is looking into replacing dash cameras, installing cameras in interview rooms and giving officers body cameras, Police Chief Roger Schroeder said during a Jefferson City Council Public Safety Committee meeting Thursday.
Schroeder included a $1.2 million request as part of the City Council’s consideration for funding projects for the next iteration of the city’s sales tax, if approved by voters in August.
The price tag for the body cameras alone would be closer to $400,000, mostly for storage, Schroeder told the committee Thursday.
However, the department would like to receive funding for all three at once to allow for all the cameras to be on the same system and the same storage, he said.
Officials are still looking into several questions about body cameras, such as which ones to purchase, whether to lease or buy, and on-site storage compared to cloud storage, JCPD Capt. Eric Wilde said.
Body cameras have been a “prominent subject” for many years, and the hesitation in getting them for JCPD was from a lack of funding rather than not supporting the idea, Schroeder said.
Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel said his organization has supported use of body cameras for years.
“We have believed for a long time, in Jefferson City and around the state, that body cameras are necessary for the protection of our officers and, at the same time, to reinforce trust in the community so that we don’t have questions about what happened,” he said.
“The longer we wait for body cameras, the more likely it is that we’re putting public lives in jeopardy over concerns about what actually happened or have an officer injured when they didn’t have to be,” Chapel said.
Ward 4 Councilman Carlos Graham said he hopes to propose a public safety tax that would go toward the police and fire departments for projects such as body cameras.
Graham also said he’s concerned about pay for officers and that they’re leaving the Jefferson City department for more lucrative positions elsewhere, which a public safety tax could also address if approved.
Regardless of whether the full amount for JCPD’s cameras project is approved and where the funding comes from, it would be paid over the course of several years.
Schroeder’s proposal for sales tax funding would spread cost out over five years.
Jefferson City resident Sue Gibson told the Public Safety Committee she would have felt better if officers were wearing body cameras during an officer-involved shooting that occurred in January.
Two officers responded to a disturbance around noon Jan. 3 at 3535 Missouri Blvd., the location of a discount retailer T.J. Maxx in Wildwood Crossing Shopping Center, Schroeder said. The officers allegedly met a man with a large knife. The officers ordered the man several times to drop the knife and surrender, but he did not, Schroeder said.
“(They) eventually raised the knife and rushed one of the officers,” Schroeder said. “Both officers discharged their firearm more than once, striking the individual.”
The man was reportedly transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead, Schroeder said.
The Missouri Highway Patrol investigated the incident and forwarded the results to the Cole County prosecutor, who did not file charges against the officers. They returned to duty approximately three and a half weeks after the incident, Schroeder said.
There’s also an internal criminal and civil investigation, conducted by the Office of Professional Standards, he noted.
“None of those investigations found any wrongdoing on the part of the officers, and they seem to be doing well considering that traumatic event,” he said.