Casper needs to invest deeply, even in a time of penny-pinching, for the Casper Police Department to buy body and vehicle camera technology, its chief said Tuesday.

"I see this as a powerful tool to gain the public trust," Chief Keith McPheeters told Casper City Council during a work session.

Body cameras can help gather and preserve evidence, aid in investigations, give the public a check on officers' actions, and show officers' bravery and compassion, McPheeters said.

The package of cameras he's seeking will cost about $1 million.

After some discussion, council members gave an informal thumbs up to the proposal.

Chris Walsh, former police chief, said the cameras in police cars now is about a decade old. People wouldn't think about using a 10-year-old cell phone, he said.

However, new council member Mike Huber wondered whether officers would begin to rely too much on technology and let the cameras do the watching.

Huber, a veteran Natrona County Circuit Court judge, asked McPheeters if such reliance would affect officers' powers of observation and recollection as they do their work.

McPheeters responded that officers will need to retain their professionalism.

After speaking to the council, he said body cameras are a powerful and rapidly evolving tool.

"The technology has improved and continues to improve," McPheeters said. "We think the time is right for the City of Casper to adopt that opportunity of technology assist."

The department has in-vehicle video systems, McPheeters said. "The technology in our cars is quite outdated, and those systems are beginning to fail, so they need upgraded."

The new technology will integrate vehicle cameras and body cameras that will be integrated with the cameras in the police station, he said.

He expects it to be good for at least five years, and he expects to being buying and installing the cameras this summer, McPheeters added.

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