Austin Fisher
KU Statehouse Wire Service
TOPEKA — The Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee heard testimony Thursday favoring a bill that would require Kansas police to use body-worn cameras while on duty.
Senate Bill 18 would require every state, county, and municipal law enforcement officer to be equipped with a body camera while on patrol duty.
Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said the bill would protect citizens and police, noting that departments in Kansas City, Kansas, and Johnson County are already using body cams.
“I believe that this is the wave of the future,” Haley said. “I do believe this is the wave of the present.”
Maj. Dawn Layman, a Lenexa police officer, is in favor of body cams and was wearing one at Thursday’s hearing.
“You do your officers a disservice if you don’t get the technology,” she said. “Law enforcement gets the fact that the technology is needed.”
Lenexa has used body cams since 2009. However, Layman opposes a statewide mandate, saying smaller departments facing budget challenges need to have a say in what equipment they use.
Layman said the camera she was wearing costs $900. The Kansas Highway Patrol estimated that implementing the bill would cost about $1.4 million in 2016 in equipment, personnel and training. Ongoing maintenance would cost an estimated $871,000 in 2017.
Police could seek grants and other funds from the federal government, and other public or private sources to cover costs. However, Layman said federal funding has been reduced in recent years.
The Topeka Capital-Journal previously reported that departments in Wichita and Riley County already use body cams, and the move to expand their use statewide has bipartisan support.
Officers wearing the cameras could stop recording when “engaged in a personal matter” such as a personal discussion or when using the bathroom, or upon request of a resident whenever the officer enters the resident’s home. Officers would also need to notify citizens that the camera is recording.
While body camera video would be exempt from the Kansas Open Records Act, anyone recorded in the video, their parents, legal guardians, or attorneys could request a copy.
Videos would be kept on file for three years if the recorded incident involves the use of force, leads to detention or an arrest, or may be useful in a criminal case. Otherwise, videos would be deleted after two weeks.
Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, asked the committee to extend that period to four weeks to allow departments more time to review the footage. He said the bill would promote government accountability and act as a tool for law enforcement to prevent false allegations.
Walt Chappell, who serves on the Racial Profiling Advisory Board of Wichita, also believes the bill allows for accountability and transparency in law enforcement, but says it does not address the issue of racial profiling or biased policing.
“That (racial profiling) takes place in the officer’s head before the stop,” Chappell said.
He said he hopes the bill will allow police to review their actions, policies, and training in order to de-escalate interactions with citizens before they become confrontations.
The committee will meet on Monday to hear testimony from opponents of the bill.
Austin Fisher is a University of Kansas senior from Lawrence majoring in journalism.