Comparison: Our Body Cam Policy vs. SLMPD’s

Body Cam Coalition Recommendations Pilot Program Policy Comparison/Critique
Body cameras must be worn on chest, shoulder or head. Body cams worn above midline of torso Both policies are the same
The camera’s record function must be activated whenever an officer is interacting with the public. When responding to call for service, officers shall activate the camera’s record function before arriving on the scene. Cams used whenever in uniform for investigations and “enforcement encounters”: traffic stops, field interviews, detentions, arrests, persons accused of crimes, consensual interactions when officer is attempting to develop reasonable suspicion, execution of searches, entering building with likely encounter, prisoner transports; turned off when contact becomes “intelligence gathering” Officer discretion: victim and witness interviews except should record victims of violent domestic abuse Police policy does not record encounters that unexpectedly go wrong. Police policy also quite complex; allowance for officer discretion allows for inconsistencies and gray areas where best practices are not followed.
Safety Exception–Turn cam on at earliest possible safe opportunity. Safety Exception–Safety is primary concern, not recording. Both policies are the same
Notification of subject required. Notification  required only if asked (though officers are “strongly encouraged” to notify); Exception: required to notify complainants and complaint witnesses Required notification is best policy–it is in the interests of subject privacy, data legitimacy in situations where reasonable expectation is fuzzy, and promotes better behavior


Exception: Crime victims, crime witnesses or potential reporters asked if they want recording discontinued. Officers never required to turn cameras off upon request of subject. Suspect interviews: “strongly encouraged to record but then required to record unless suspect declines to make statement. Giving power to turn off cameras to victims and witnesses will better promote cooperation
Reason for turning off cams recorded. Police policy missing in this area. Need to make sure there is proper reason for camera being off
Exception: hospitals and schools Exception: no recordings of medical treatment or evals; no recordings in medical facilities unless responding to call or confronting aggressive subject Both policies are similar but police do not cover schools.
Prohibited: recordings of confidential informers and undercover officers; places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy; strip searches; other agency personnel during routine non-enforcement activities; case tactics or strategy Prohibited: recordings of victims and witnesses of Sex Crimes and Child Abuse unless a “dynamic and chaotic crime scene.” Also prohibited: non-work activities, work areas not related to enforcement contact or investigations, administrative investigations, briefings or homicide walk throughs, confidential informants Both policies are similar, but police policy misses strip searches. Does non-video of “administrative investigations” mean there is no video when misconduct is not criminal? This denies info to COB.
Retention by non-law enforcement government agency (with specific requirements for quality, security, chain of custody etc); they do access and copying Retention by–third party server Police policy does not envision the situation beyond the pilot program. We would recommend  a non-law enforcement gov. agency to create a firewall with clearer standards of access and an ability to have officer requests for info vetted.
Requirement that data is downloaded with indications of automatic or requested flagging Officers with permission can access and copy Police policy does not set standards for permission. See also the comment immediately above.
Data deleted after three months unless flagged Data retained for at least 90 days; evidence exported and kept elsewhere–deleted from main storage? Police policy too vague.
Automatic flagging: use of force above verbal commands; detention for more than five minutes; search greater than pat down; arrest; filed complaint Mention of retention categories but no description of what the categories are Police policy needs more clear and precise flagging system.
Requested flagging: evidentiary value; for training purposes; request by any subject; request by third party alleging misconduct; academic research No flagging by subjects or complainants Police policy needs to acknowledge and allow for rights of subjects to see own videos and needs to ensure data can be used in complaint system.
Subjects allowed to review data and obtain copy See above
Clear Custodian of Records–Retention Agency Police policy too vague given copies that go to other agencies
Access: for evidence (reasonable suspicion), investigation of misconduct; COB investigations and audits; limited supervisory and research purposes; random auditing for compliance Officers with permission can access; Police policy has  no description of standards for permission; no allowance for random compliance audits or academic research though permission can be granted
Viewing only after writing of initial report and interviews Officers should review data before reports to prime their recollection; should note discrepancies between memory and data Police policy undermines accountability, ignores fact that review of tape will alter memory and erases capture of officer perceptions which are the basis of the law.
Data considered incident reports or parts of incident reports Data considered investigative record; for official use only; public release only with Chief’s approval This data seems to fit exactly into State statute definition of incident report. It is good for transparency to be as open as possible (this required by Sunshine law) and redactions can take care of privacy concerns.
Data not required in incident reports shall be visually and auditorially redacted to obscure identity; these shall be open records Sunshine Law and relevant court case allow for this redaction without changes in State law
Subject can permit unredacted (except for required redactions) release
Unredacted flagged data will be open when redaction would destroy the evidentiary value This is a question of balancing the public interest and privacy.
Training regarding law, technical aspects, flagging, scenario based exercises, accessing etc.; required training manual Training on current policies and proper use Greater training is necessary than seems to be provided for the pilot program.
Required annual report
Enforcement: 1) appropriate discipline; 2) mandatory suspension; 3) termination or pattern of non-compliance; presumption against officer for non-compliance Subject to disciplinary action Police policy on discipline is too vague and does not answer public skepticism that cameras will be inappropriately turned off

Drone Free St. Louis’ Testimony in Opposition to SB 331

On February 18, 2015 Drone Free St. Louis went to Jefferson City and testified in opposition to Missouri bill SB 331.

We are testifying today against SB 331 and in favor of an open and vigorous Sunshine Law. First, we believe that police vehicle and body cameras are positive tools to increase public transparency in policing and in building community trust. They can help show the public that we are working toward a fair and accountable police force. The community needs to be able to see what happens during encounters with the police and have input when making sure that police reflect community values. Second, we believe that the real privacy concerns related to body cameras are best served through police department policies that clearly specify and limit the use of the cameras in sensitive situations and create greater privacy by limiting the storage and accessibility of the data.

There are great gains to be made by the community input that can come from the use of these cameras. Let us use as an example a recently revealed vehicle tape from an encounter in St. Louis. That encounter resulted in accusations of police excessive force, but the tape of the incident was inconclusive because it had been purposely turned off before the incident ended. Had the public been able to see the complete incident, we would have known more clearly whether police had acted appropriately. Without it, a haze of doubt and mistrust hangs over the police. But with what the public does know—that the tape was inappropriately turned off—the public can work to improve police policy. Is there a clear policy about turning off the tapes? Are there appropriate consequences for officers who violate that policy? Public awareness and input into policy can improve policing in these areas as well as other issues related to use of force and procedural justice.

To be sure, there are important concerns raised by body and vehicle cameras, regarding the privacy of both police and the general public. We believe these concerns can best be addressed through a nuanced approach involving clear policies and minor changes to the Sunshine Law. The blanket closing of virtually all camera data is too broad. Instead, the legislature may want to pass mandatory guidelines for departments adopting cameras. Drone Free St. Louis has created such a model policy based on sets of recommendations put forward by the COPS Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the ACLU. They include the following privacy provisions:

  • The public shall be notified, when practical, that they are being recorded;
  • Police must obtain consent from crime victims and from residents of dwellings being entered under non-exigent circumstances;
  • Recording shall be prohibited when interviewing confidential informers, during strip searches, when there is an expectation of privacy, when police tactics are being discussed, and when agency personnel are conducting non-enforcement activities;
  • Data shall be kept for only a short period (weeks rather than months) unless flagged for relevancy in an investigation, for supervisory purposes or for use in a complaint regarding misconduct;
  • Sunshine Law should be modified to allow data to be open records if the subject of a video approves, if faces and other private details are redacted through visual blurring techniques, or if unredacted video has been flagged as likely containing police misconduct.


Join us for War at Home, War Abroad: Militarization and Surveillance

Teargas, tanks, rifles, rubber bullets. Weapons of war were out in force in Ferguson, Missouri used by police against peaceful protestors. The scene in Ferguson was created by an increasing trend towards militarization by local police forces.

In our panel, we will highlight the connection between our military actions abroad and the increasing militarization of the police at home, uncovering the insidious role of the military-industrial complex in today’s policing practices. There’s a war at home and abroad, and both treat black and brown people as enemy combatants.

From economic repression to surveillance techniques to drone policy, we will discuss the elements that have created militarized policing and the resistance that has formed to work against it.

The panel will take place within Ferguson October on Friday Oct. 10 at 7 pm at Friends Meeting House (1001 Park Ave). 

Current speaker lineup:
Linda Sarsour: Tying together police brutality showcased in Ferguson and NYC stop and frisk program with what is happening overseas in places like Palestine and drone programs abroad.

Michael McPhearson: The connections between the struggle here and abroad, including the similarities in societal and economic conditions shared around the globe. He will also touch on how military responses are not the answer here or abroad.

Colleen Kelly: The role of surveillance in the overall militaristic trend that we are experiencing in this country, and the importance of resisting police surveillance systems in addition to typical militarization.

Sponsoring Organizations: Drone Free St. Louis, Veterans for Peace, UMStL Muslim Student Association, CAIR-St Louis, Peace Economy Project, St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, St. Louis Instead of War Coalition, Muslims for Ferguson

Drone Free St. Louis’ Model Body Camera Policy

Our Model Body Cam Policy has been updated. The new version is here.

Drone Free St. Louis recognizes that front facing body cameras for police are a tool that moves our community towards police accountability. While the ability to review police behavior and actions is a positive step that is supported by our coalition, body cameras are not the end solution in police accountability. Any policy reform that includes body cameras must acknowledge the point that body cameras are only a tool and do not provide real reform without the proper community backed standards and regulations. Body cameras must not become a method for roving government surveillance of citizens when there is no reasonable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. We have included our policy guidelines for police body cameras, based on recommendations from the COPS Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the ACLU, as follows.

Model Body Camera Policy

Technical Requirements

  1. Cameras deployed should have the capacity, when turned on, to record a thirty second loop so that the previous thirty seconds are saved whenever the record button is activated.
  2. Specific Department personnel should be designated as responsible for ensuring cameras are charged and in proper working order, for reporting and documenting problems with cameras, and for reissuing working cameras to avert malfunction claims if critical footage is not captured.
  3. Privately-owned cameras are not permitted.
  4. Cameras must be worn on chest.


  1. Cameras should be limited to uniformed officers, with an exception for SWAT teams or others planned uses of force when they involve non-uniformed officers.
  2. The camera’s record function must be activated whenever an officer is interacting with the public. The only exceptions to this requirement are when circumstances would make such activation unsafe, impossible or impractical, or are specifically listed below.
  3. Once activated, the body-worn camera should remain in recording mode until the conclusion of an incident/encounter, the officer has left the scene, or a supervisor has authorized (on camera) that a recording may cease.
  4. Policies should provide clear guidance regarding the circumstances under which officers will be allowed to exercise discretion to record, the factors that officers should consider when deciding whether to record, and the process for documenting whether to record.
  5. Failure to record when required to do so will result in the following serious consequences unless explicitly justified by exigent circumstances:
    1. Serious disciplinary action against the officer involved;
    2. Perhaps an exclusionary rule for any evidence obtained; and
    3. In cases where misconduct is alleged, there would be an evidentiary presumption against the officer.
  6. Whenever practicable, officers are required to give a full explanation on tape as to why they are turning a camera off. If this is not practicable, explanation must be given in writing.

Privacy Exceptions to Recording

  1. Officers should be required, wherever practicable, to notify people that they are being recorded. One possibility departments might consider is for officers to wear an easily visible pin or sticker saying “lapel camera in operation” or words to that effect.
  2. Regardless of the general recording policy, officers should be required to obtain consent prior to recording interviews with crime victims.
  3. Regardless of the general recording policy, officers should have the discretion to keep their cameras turned off during conversations with crime witnesses and members of the community who wish to report or discuss criminal activity in their neighborhood.
  4. Cameras must not be used to surreptitiously gather intelligence information based on First Amendment protected speech, associations, or religion.
  5. Agencies should prohibit recording other agency personnel during routine, non-enforcement-related activities unless recording is required by a court order or is authorized as part of an administrative or criminal investigation.
  6. Policies should clearly state any other types of recordings that are prohibited by the agency. Prohibited recordings should include the following:
    1. conversations with confidential informants and undercover officers;
    2. places where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists (e.g., bathrooms or locker rooms);
    3. strip searches; and
    4. conversations with other agency personnel that involve case tactics or strategy.
  7. Officers must ask resident whether they wish for a camera to be turned off before they enter a home in non-exigent circumstances. (Citizen requests for cameras to be turned off should themselves be recorded to document such requests.) Cameras should never be turned off in SWAT raids and similar police actions.


  1. Data should be retained by a reputable, experienced third-party vendor, provided that the following safeguards are in place:
    1. upon consultation with prosecutors and legal advisors, there exists an unimpeachable audit trail to preserve the chain of custody;
    2. there exists a legal contract that governs the vendor relationship so that the videos are owned by the police agency and their use and access are governed by agency policy;
    3. there exists a system that has a built-in audit trail to prevent data tampering and unauthorized access  or copying; and
    4. there exists a system that has a reliable method for automatically backing up data, and automatically deleting it after the retention period expires.
  2. Policies should designate the officer as the person responsible for downloading recorded data from his or her body-worn camera by the end of each shift in which the camera was used. However, in certain clearly identified circumstances (e.g., officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, or other incidents involving the officer that result in a person’s bodily harm or death), the officer’s supervisor should immediately take physical custody of the camera and should be responsible for downloading the data.
  3. Retention periods should be only for a period of weeks—only long enough to allow for the filing of a complaint–and video should be deleted after that period unless a recording has been flagged. A flagged recording should be retained for a defined period as prescribed by law or as necessary to adjudicate complaints.
  4. Retention policies should be posted online on the department’s website, so that people who have encounters with police know how long they have to file a complaint or request access to footage.
  5. Flagging should occur automatically for any incident:
    1. involving a use of force;
    2. that leads to detention or arrest; or
    3. where either a formal or informal complaint has been registered.
    4. Any subject of a recording should be able to flag a recording, even if not filing a complaint or opening an investigation.
  6. The police department (including internal investigations and supervisors) and third parties should also be able to flag an incident if they have some basis to believe police misconduct has occurred or have reasonable suspicion that the video contains evidence of a crime. Officers should properly categorize and flag body-worn camera videos at the time they are downloaded if such work has not already been accomplished in the field. Specified police personnel should also be able to flag a limited number of videos for supervisory or training purposes.
  7. If any useful evidence is obtained during an authorized use of a recording (see below), the recording would then be retained in the same manner as any other evidence gathered during an investigation.


  1. The use of recordings should be allowed only in internal and external investigations of misconduct, and where the police have reasonable suspicion that a recording contains evidence of a crime. Limited exceptions should be allowed for supervisory purposes:
    A. when a supervisor is investigating a complaint against an officer or a specific incident in which an officer was involved;
    B. to identify and use videos for training purposes; or
    C. to insure compliance with recording policies and protocols under the following circumstances:
    1) when officers are still in a probationary period or are with a field training officer;
    2) when officers have had a pattern of allegations of verbal or physical abuse;
    3) when officers, as a condition of being put back on the street, agree to a more intensive review; or
    4) when officers are identified through an early intervention system.
  2. .An agency’s internal audit unit, rather than the officer’s direct chain of command, should periodically conduct a random review of body-worn camera footage to monitor compliance with the program and assess overall officer performance.
  3. People recorded by cameras should have access to, and the right to make copies of, those recordings, for however long the government maintains copies of them. That should also apply to disclosure to a third party if the subject consents, or to criminal defense lawyers seeking relevant evidence.
  4. Redaction of video records should be used when feasible — blurring or blacking out of portions of video and/or distortion of audio to obscure the identity of subjects. If recordings are redacted, they should be open records.
  5. Unredacted, unflagged recordings should not be publicly disclosed without consent of the subject. These are recordings where there is no indication of police misconduct or evidence of a crime. The state may need to amend the Sunshine Law to accommodate this policy.
  6. Flagged recordings are those for which there is the highest likelihood of misconduct, and thus the ones where public oversight is most needed. Redaction of disclosed recordings is preferred, but when that is not feasible, unredacted flagged recordings should be publicly disclosed, because in such cases the need for oversight outweighs the privacy interests at stake.
  7. Agency personnel should be explicitly forbidden from accessing recorded data for personal use and from uploading recorded data onto public and social media websites.

Training and Evaluation

  1. Body-worn camera training should be required for all agency personnel who may use or otherwise be involved with body-worn cameras. All training must be completed before agency personnel are equipped with cameras or allowed to access camera data. Such training should include:
    1. an overview of relevant state laws governing consent, evidence, privacy, and public disclosure;
    2. procedures for operating the equipment safely and effectively;
    3. scenario-based exercises that replicate situations that officer might encounter in the field;
    4. procedures for downloading and tagging recorded data;
    5. procedures for accessing and reviewing recorded data (only for personnel authorized to access the data);
    6. procedures for preparing and presenting digital evidence for court; and
    7. procedures for documenting and reporting any malfunctioning device or supporting system.
  2. A body-worn camera training manual should be created in both digital and hard-copy form and should be readily available at all times to agency personnel.
  3. Agencies should collect statistical data concerning body-worn camera usage, including when video footage is used in criminal prosecutions, by internal affairs matters, and when/how often it is released to the public. Statistics should be publicly released at various specified points throughout the year or as part of the agency’s year-end report.

Solidarity with Mike Brown and Don’t Shoot Coalition

Drone Free St. Louis extends our condolences and thoughts to the family of Mike Brown and the entire community. We stand in solidarity and call for real justice for the people of Ferguson and all affected by police violence.

We as a coalition call for the complete demilitarization of local police. We do not need tactics of war brought into our communities, such as weaponized cops and surveillance systems. We need the building of real communities. We stand with those on the ground lifting up these values and demands in Mike Brown’s name.

We encourage people to support the work and efforts of those in Ferguson. Follow their lead as they build a stronger community based not of fear, but on relationship and hope.

Ways you can get involved:
St. Louis Support Sign Up
Out of State Support Sign Up


Vote Yes on Amendment 9

Yes on 9Drone Free St. Louis endorses a Yes vote on Constitutional Amendment 9. The amendment would add language to Section 15 Article I of the Missouri Constitution. The Constitution currently prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of “persons, papers, homes and effects”; Amendment 9 would expand this protection to also include “electronic communications and data.” This amendment is important in preserving the privacy rights of all Missourians and ensures that a police warrant must be obtained before a person’s electronic communications are seized.


Vote No on 7

No on 7Drone Free St. Louis endorses a No vote on Constitutional Amendment 7. The amendment imposes a regressive ¾ of one percent sales tax to fund transportation in the State of Missouri. Included in the list of projects that it would fund is $4 million for the “Real Time Transportation Center” to be installed in the new St. Louis Police Department headquarters. This is just another name for the Real Time Intelligence Center (RTIC), which would be a hub for surveillance camera monitoring the city. Drone Free St. Louis opposes mass surveillance of citizens going about their everyday lives. The RTIC will only serve to invade privacy, limiting our free speech and rights of association. We feel strongly that a public discussion needs to be held on the merits of a RTIC with input from the citizens of St. Louis before any such drastic change in policing policy is made.