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St. Louis Chief Seeks Body Cameras, Plans to Establish Deadly Force Investigation Unit

September 11, 2014  | 

As protesters outside repeatedly projected video of a knife-wielding Kajime Powell being shot and killed by St. Louis police on Aug. 19, Police Chief Sam Dotson addressed the often combative aldermanic public safety committee for about three hours Wednesday. He outlined his department’s policy on the use of force in the wake of the Powell shooting and the crisis in neighboring Ferguson, cautioning the politicians that “police officers are human.”

The department, Dotson said, will seek about $1 million from City Hall to outfit 900 officers with body cameras to record their interactions with civilians. They are also working on the formation of a citizen review board. In addition, Dotson said all police-involved shootings will go before the city’s circuit attorney for review.

He has also announced a new team of investigators dedicated to examining deadly force cases. The new “Force Investigative Unit” will have four detectives and be led by Sgt. Roger Engelhardt, a former city homicide detective.

Alderman Antonio French, 21st Ward, questioned the use of deadly force by police officers, saying that the power to take a life should be examined.

Dotson responded that reasonable deadly force is a right granted under the U.S. Constitution and upheld by Supreme Court rulings. He said any discussion about taking away that power was a “broader discussion” required by the nation as a whole, not just in St. Louis or Missouri.

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