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BodyWarn camera

BodyWarn camera, made by Utility Associates Inc. Photo courtesy Utility Associates Inc.

Regarding “Body cameras would protect honest St. Louis cops — and keep the rest in line.” (Sept. 2): This editorial makes the argument that the millions required to outfit St. Louis police officers with body cameras would be money well spent, in part as an adjunct to the increasingly necessary legal defense of police officers and in part because of a hoped-for improvement in police behavior.

Those two goals, while having merit, should be considered secondary to the primary reason for the existence of police — to identify and apprehend criminals. A significant percentage of crime is solved because of video monitoring of streets, businesses and buildings. In the event of a crime, the first task of the police should be to make an arrest. Witnesses are often afraid to cooperate with the police for fear of reprisal. A videotape of the crime itself should be of great value to the law enforcement community.

I do not know the extent of video surveillance currently in place in the St. Louis area. Certainly not every criminal act will be solved this way. The benefits of comprehensive monitoring of our public spaces should receive budget priority. Once this is accomplished, then the need for police body cameras could be addressed.

Robert J. Gresick • Frontenac