The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners approved two new policies Tuesday, March 23, in relation to demands from activists for police reforms. The new policies address guidelines for body-worn cameras and how officers should respond to organized public demonstrations.
The first, the Internally Recorded Digital Media Records Policy, addresses the Kansas City Police Department’s (KCPD) body-worn cameras, as well as in-car cameras and interrogation videos.
The policy requires officers to have body-worn cameras on during every contact with the public. Video that is not part of evidence will be kept for 180 days.
Community leaders and activists have been requesting KCPD officers be adorned with body-worn cameras for several years. The department gained funding for the cameras last June with a $1 million donation awarded to the city by the DeBruce Foundation. An additional $1.5 million was raised for the cameras from community partners, business leaders and philanthropists.
The second policy passed by the board is the First Amendment Protective Activities Policy. This policy creates guidelines and procedures for the department when interacting with individuals participating in First Amendment-protected activities, such as protesting.
The policy “explicitly prohibits officers from using less-lethal weapons and munitions, other than chemical agents, to disperse crowds in the event of an unlawful assembly.”
It also states that “members will make all reasonable efforts to allow law-abiding individuals to continue to exercise their First Amendment protected rights, and will focus efforts on those individuals in the active assembly who violate the law.”
The department said it worked with community members, stakeholders and city leaders to help form the new policies, specifically with how cameras should be activated and video footage should be stored.
The new policies are in response to activists calling for reform due to how officers engaged with protestors after the death of George Floyd last spring. Protestors criticized KCPD for their use of tear gas and less-lethal rounds in an effort to disperse the crowd after officers said objects were thrown at them during a protest at the Country Club Plaza last summer.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, a member of the Board of Police Commissioners, has praised the department for creating the new polices, saying, “I commend you for continuing to do work on this.”