The Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department has developed a culture of high-level customer service, fair and impartial policing, and the use of force only when necessary. The officers’ actions are a matter of public record and the department welcomes the opportunity for increased transparency through the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs).
In early 2017, the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department partnered with the Regional Justice Information Services (REJIS) and the US Department of Justices’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), to begin our BWC program. Spearheading the program in the fall of 2017, REJIS was awarded several hundred thousand dollars in grant funding for the purchase of BWCs for participating police agencies within St. Louis County. This BJA grant award was unique as it was one of the first in the nation to take a regional approach to BWC acquisition, as opposed to each agency filing for federal funds individually. Additionally, during the application phase of this grant, the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, the 21st Circuit Court (St. Louis County), and the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Missouri all wrote letters of support for the program.
The result of this program was the purchase and future deployment of 247 BWCs for the following seven (7) participating St. Louis County Municipal Police Departments:
The following is the Bellefontaine Neighbors BWC Projected Deployment Timeline*:
* Dates are subject to change due to technical issues or other complications outside of our control
Community involvement is critical to any successful BWC program. The Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department has developed a thorough policy regarding the use of BWCs. A link to our draft policy can be found below. Under this link, you will find a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section that may answer some of the questions you may already have.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will every officer in the police department have a body-worn camera?
All members of the police department, with the exception of the Chief, will be issued BWCs.
How many cameras will the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department deploy when the program is complete?
32 BWCs will be deployed when the program is fully implemented.
When will the cameras be turned on?
BNPD’s BWC Policy contains a detailed list of situations for which a BWC should be activated. Essentially, an officer shall continuously record any incident in which an officer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime has occurred and circumstances when it is beneficial to record activities for evidence purposes.
Why can’t a BWC continuously record an entire shift?
Much of the work an officer completes throughout a shift can be considered administrative in nature (report writing, paperwork, etc.). There are also times during an officer’s shift where they may have an expectation of privacy. Additionally, requiring the continuous recording of an entire 12-hour shift would put an unnecessary strain on system resources (e.g., storage space, video management).
Where will the BWC video be stored?
BWC video will be stored on a server located at REJIS.
How long is the video kept?
All BWC recordings not scheduled for court proceedings, litigation holds, active investigations or departmental uses shall be maintained for 30 days in accordance with the Missouri Police Clerks Records Retention Schedule.
Does the officer have to tell me when I’m being recorded?
Officers are not obligated to announce if they have activated their BWC.
What if I don’t want to be recorded?
This depends on the situation. There may be times when an individual may not wish to be recorded, especially in locations where they may have an expectation of privacy (such as a residence). If the officer feels that stopping the recording will not in any way hamper the investigation, then the officer may choose to turn off the BWC. However, officers are not obligated to stop the recording of incidents involving an investigation, lawful search, arrest or other circumstances that clearly dictate that continued recording is necessary.
Can an officer record inside my home?
Yes. However, in locations where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a residence, individuals may request that an officer not record them. Officers will evaluate each situation and when an officer deems it appropriate, may honor the individual’s request.
Will interviews with witnesses and victims be recorded?
It depends on the situation. Individuals may request that an officer not record them. Officers will evaluate each situation and when an officer deems it appropriate, may honor the individual’s request.
Will officers use BWCs to record casual conversations with community members?
Generally, no. BNPD’s primary use of the cameras will be in situations when officers are responding to calls for service and during law enforcement-related activities, such as traffic stops, arrests, searches, interviews, and pursuits.
Why shouldn’t all video recorded by police be available to the public?
Requests for video are subject to the Missouri Sunshine Law. Additionally, 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.
Who can I contact if I have questions about BNPD’s BWC program?
Please contact the Chief of Police with any questions.
What are the limitations of BWCs?
While BWC’s can be a useful tool and can provide a unique perspective on police encounters, there are limitations: