Local law enforcement sounds off on body cameras

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BOONE COUNTY - As the Missouri State Legislature prepares to go back in session next month, lawmakers are already pre-filing bills ahead of their next meeting.

One proposal from Rep. Brandon Ellington (D-Kansas City) would require all law enforcement around the state to wear body cameras while on the job. It's similar to legislation that failed at the state level last session.

Even though the state legislature opposed implementing body cameras overall, several mid-Missouri law enforcement agencies have decided to make the move to adding body cameras.

The Ashland Police Department has used the cameras for nearly a year. Ashland Police Chief Lyn Woolford said it took his officers some time getting used to them.

"There might have been some apprehension when we first got them," Woolford said. "They've become supportive of the technology."

Woolford said Ashland's change is part of a move that has gained steam, with police departments nationwide choosing to use body cameras. Other departments including those in Columbia and Fulton have also made the change.

The Boone County Sheriff's Department is in the middle of a testing phase, with only some deputies using the technology. Major Tom Reddin said the department started using the cameras this fall

"We have to figure out how these things are going to be paid for," Reddin said. "These things aren't cheap."

According to Rep. Ellington, if the bill went into law, cities across Missouri would use 5 percent of fine revenue to help come up with the money needed to pay for cameras.

Those in opposition to similar legislation last session were worried about privacy concerns for police departments. Both the Ashland and Boone County departments said they have nothing to hide from the public, so there is no hesitation from them when it comes to using the cameras.

The debate will ramp up in 2016, with the legislative session beginning on January 6.