ST. LOUIS – St. Louis officials decided on Wednesday to supply police officers with body cameras for a year as the city prepares for a sixth night of protests after a white former police officer was acquitted of killing a black man.
The city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment voted 3-0 to have Axon Enterprise Inc., a police body camera company, supply its 1,200 officers with free software, hardware and training for a year.
The equipment would cost $1.2 million if the city decided to keep it after the free year.
Axon officials declined comment.
The panel, made up of President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed, Mayor Lyda Krewson and City Comptroller Darlene Green, also voted to ask other companies for estimates on supplying permanent body cameras.
“We needed this to heal and we need this for people to feel more confident in our police department,” Reed said during the meeting that, at times, dissolved into a shouting match with residents demanding the board approve the measure.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department tested body cameras from December 2015 through the beginning of 2016, but city officials decided it was too costly, Reed said.
Police will use the cameras under the test program but the police union will have to approve permanent body cameras, Reed said.
Cities that have body cameras have found a decrease in the use of force by police officers, fewer complaints against police and more community engagement with police, Reed said.
The vote follows five days of protests that included demonstrators clashing with police, breaking windows and destroying property. Riots followed the 2014 shooting of a black teenager by a white officer in nearby Ferguson.
The protests are in response to a judge’s decision to find former officer Jason Stockley, 36, not guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24.
An internal police car video that captured Stockley saying he was going to kill Smith during the pursuit was a key part in the prosecutors’ case against the former officer.
Activists will hold a rally Wednesday to demand police reforms and voice frustration over policing in the city of 315,000 people.