- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Almost half of St. Louis County police officers will be wearing video cameras while on duty starting this month, according to Chief Jon Belmar.

Several companies are lending the technology for free to police departments in hopes of landing contracts with the organizations, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/WSnBFe ).

In St. Louis County, 188 police officers will be using the cameras on their chests, glasses or collars within two weeks. About 24 officers received cameras and training on Tuesday.

Belmar said his goal is to have all 465 patrol officers wearing them as soon as possible.

“Given the events in Ferguson and the skepticism that’s been directed at law enforcement, we have to take steps to ensure the public trust,” he said.

A Ferguson police officer fatally shot an 18-year-old last month, which started protests and rallies in the city.

Belmar also noted the wide use of surveillance and cellphone video, saying, “there are cameras on us all the time.”

“Why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of this and make sure it’s in context?”

Gabe Crocker, president of the St. Louis County Police Association, said the technology will hold both police officers and the public accountable.

For about the next three months, the department will experiment with different types of cameras and methods to help determine which devices to purchase and how many.

Some officers will be assigned cameras, while some will share among shifts.

The price of the technology ranges from $300 to $700. Belmar said his department likely will use money seized from criminals to purchase the cameras.

“This is something that should have happened years ago, but didn’t because of funding restraints,” Belmar said.

The body cameras run continually but record only the previous 30 seconds of video until manually activated.

Belmar said he wants officers to record every time they report to a call, but understands they might forget or may not have time when an unexpected event occurs.

St. Louis city police officials say they are considering using body cameras.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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