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Hurdles Remain For Wichita’s Purchase Of Police Body Cameras

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The City of Wichita is one step closer to outfitting all police officers with body cameras, but hurdles still remain.

The city has approved a contract with Taser, the popular electrical weapons manufacturer, to purchase up to 429 Axon body cameras.

The initial purchasing cost is $714,480, but the city still hasn’t secured all of that funding. Over $360,000 will come from municipal towing and impound fines. Another $100,000 will come from a Justice Assistance Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

A second federal grant could provide up to $250,000, but it’s not guaranteed.

Walt Chappell with the Wichita Racial Profiling Advisory Board said the city should have waited to approve the contract after the federal grants are awarded later this year.

“You don’t have the financing in place,” Chappell told council members. “You don’t know if that federal grant is going to be approved. There’s a lot of competition all over this country for those 50 grants.”

If the federal grant isn’t approved, or if it’s less than expected, the city will have to look for internal sources of funding.

Brendan Fox, also of the Wichita Racial Profiling Advisory Board, asked city council members if the city will have a policy for how and when body cameras are used.

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton responded that the city was finalizing its body camera policy, and a draft will be reviewed by groups of community leaders.

“The new cameras will not be deployed until that policy is in place,” Layton said.

The contract with Taser is for five years and includes an annual operating cost of about $360,000. The city will receive docking stations for each police precinct. Additional staff positions are expected in order to maintain the equipment and to manage data storage.

The operating costs are expected to be offset by grounding the police helicopter and from narcotics seizure funds.

The city said they will deploy additional body cameras in phases to “ensure all officers are equipped and properly trained by December 31, 2015.”