Why is it that 80 percent of Chicago squad dash cams don’t record sound?

According to DNAinfo.com, “80 percent of the Chicago Police Department’s 850 dashcam video systems don’t record audio due to “to operator error or in some cases intentional destruction” by officers, according to a review by the Police Department. Additionally, about 12 percent of dashcams experience “video issues” on any given day due to “equipment or operator error,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. ”

If you are wondering about how that could possibly happen, perhaps you are a newcomer to this blog.

Here is a quote from former Chicago Police Chief Jody Weis that I took from a WBEZ story and posted to this blog four years ago:

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.’”

So why are the officers doing turning off their sound?  I must admit that as a DUI defense attorney, this is something that never bothers me.  That is because bad audio can lose a case for me.  It is one thing to see a motorist have an animated conversation with a cop; it is a whole different matter when you hear that disagreement, and you can listen to all the times that the motorist misunderstands something, repeats something, gets belligerent for no reason or can’t follow a simple instruction.  It is also one thing for a judge or jury to hear that a defendant had slurred speech, yet another for them to actually hear it.  So I don’t complain when there isn’t any sound.  It is (generally) helpful to the defense.

So if it helps defendants, why do the officers do this?  I can only guess (since they won’t tell me), but I would assume that it is for privacy reasons most of all.  Who would want to have every interaction, personal phone call, or moment of speaking to oneself, recorded and possibly be played in court.

In addition, I suspect that certain officers also do not want the sound recorded because they know the things that they say to people, and they don’t want that recorded.  And a few officers do not want their phone conversations recorded, or conversations recorded, because they are talking to other officers outside the normal channels of police radio and are saying things that would get them into trouble. And they know that.

What do you think?

(P.S., thanks to Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen Hoffman, who linked to this story on social media, where I first saw it).

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