Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Witchita Planning for Police Car Cameras

WICHITA — Up to 175 police cars could have dash cameras someday soon under a request for federal money approved by Wichita City Council members.
The request asks for about $3.6 million to cover installation of 175 cameras, data technicians and other costs incurred over three years.
It will be up to federal officials to decide on money for the cameras and other city requests.
In 2008, police started a dash camera pilot project in eight marked police vehicles used mostly for traffic stops.
Late last year, a review of the project by police said the cameras were a good way to document drunk drivers, train other officers and show evidence in courtrooms. Similar benefits have been noted nationwide.
Wichita police have not used video cameras in their cars since the early 1990s, when the city discontinued a video camera program that was initiated with a federal grant.
Police said the program wasn’t a top priority and was too expensive to maintain.
Sunflower Community Action, a nonprofit group that advocates on residents’ behalf, began pressing for dash cameras in 2005.
The city resisted. Police said the cameras, though helpful, weren’t a priority.
Now, after Sunflower has met with City Manager Robert Layton on the issue, the city has requested federal funds, as Sunflower had advocated for.
The cameras are 11th on a list of 13 federal legislative priorities. A new police helicopter is ranked number 9.
The top priority is funding for road construction at I-235 and Kellogg, I-235 and Central and Kellogg and West Street.
Council members approved the list unanimously and without any substantial discussion.