Back on November 3rd, I wrote in this blog that it was a common experience that police departments would remove squad cameras not long after they were installed, or that officers would claim that their cameras had “broke” only weeks or months after they had been installed.
Or suddenly the camera “broke” — and I put quotes on that word because, yes, I am very suspicious. In Chicago, cameras only started to get put into circulation after several “top cops” were busted for exaggerating DUI cases. Suddenly, the remaining top DUI officers were required to have video cameras installed in their squads. After a few months, the videos stopped coming. I asked one officer what happened to your videos? I thought your squad was set up for them? The response went something like this: “Funny, the City got us these cheap cameras and mine is broke already.” Hmmmm.
Or the officer forgot to “activate” the camera. You get the picture.
So you can imagine my interest in a story by WBEZ’s Rob Wildeboer, that is mainly about how one of the Chicago “blue light cameras” was suddenly turned away from a police action involving at least 19 squad cars, mace and billy clubs.
More interesting is this quote from former Chicago Police Chief Jody Weis:
Weis says it’s not too much of a stretch to think officers would divert the cameras. He says when he was in charge they had a problem with officers turning off the cameras in their cars, “and I think it was because people had a fear, we don’t want this camera recording what we’re doing and I don’t know how many times I spent and said ‘Guys, if you’re doing your job correctly this camera’s your greatest friend.'”
Sounds like I was right on the nose. Funny, though. I don’t remember the State’s Attorney being too upset when their “top DUI cops” suddenly suddenly weren’t producing videos anymore, after the taxpayers had just spent thousands to install new cameras in their squads.
P.S. I am writing this after just coming back from court on a DUI case, where I was told that the dash cam video of the defendant’s arrest was erased pursuant to a south suburban police department’s “retention” policy. The State’s Attorney was not given a copy of the video prior to the destruction of the evidence.