The Chicago Police Department is getting serious about body cameras

From NBC 5 Chicago:

The Chicago Police Department will be deploying 2,000 additional body cameras in seven police districts by the summer, authorities announced Friday.

Chicago Police currently use about 30 body cameras in one district on the Northwest Side, where police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says complaints about officers have dropped dramatically. This is proof, according to the department, that cameras help to restore the community’s trust.

“It assures police respond appropriately, professionally, and respectfully, and it also changes behavior of citizens we encounter,” said Johnson, who wore a body camera on beat patrol Friday evening. “So far interaction with community has gone quite well,” he said.

The cameras will be used in seven of the most violent districts across Chicago, mostly concentrated on the South and West Sides, according to police. Those districts are the 14th (Shakespeare), 9th (Deering), 15th (Austin), 2nd (Wentworth), 10th (Ogden), 4th (South Chicago), and 6th (Gresham).

A push for these body cams came on the heels of dwindling public trust and controversial police encounters, like the dashcam video of the shooting death of Laquan McDonald at the hands of Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke. Video in that instance contradicted what officers reported occurred that night.

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Obviously, there has been a tremendous push for body cameras in the wake of recent highly publicized incidents.  Yet, so far, the only body camera evidence that I have received was in a case from Evergreen Park, a southwest suburban Cook County suburb.

In the meantime, most Chicago arrests do not have any video, dash cam or otherwise.  This move by the Chicago Police Department is a welcome one.  More transparency is always the right decision.

IL bill would add $5 fee to traffic tickets to pay for police body cameras

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Kim Geiger):

Answering calls to equip police officers with body cameras after a series of officer-involved deaths across the country, Illinois lawmakers are pushing a plan to add a $5 fee onto traffic tickets to pay for the equipment while also setting statewide standards for how the cameras and the videos they capture could be used.

The measure, which cleared the Illinois House on Thursday, would expand police officer training to include topics like use of force. It would require an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths and would make investigation reports part of the public record if an officer involved in a death is not charged with a crime.

Additionally, it would ban the use of chokeholds and create a database of officers who have been fired or resigned due to misconduct.

The legislation comes after a series of officer-involved deaths generated momentum around efforts to change the way police interact with the communities they serve. President Barack Obama recently formed a task force to study the issue, and its conclusions served as a blueprint for the Illinois bill, the sponsors said.

“What we are doing here is we are taking a proactive step … to ensure that things that are happening around the country do not happen within the borders of Illinois,” said sponsoring Rep. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago.

If enacted, Illinois would be the first state in the country to set statewide standards for the use of body cameras, Sims said. A similar effort is underway in California, but it has run into opposition from police and the state’s top attorney, who argue that individual departments should be left to develop standards on their own.

The bill would not require police departments to use body cameras. But those that do so would have to follow state rules, including a requirement that officers keep their cameras on when conducting law enforcement activities. Officers would be allowed to turn the camera off when talking to a confidential informant, or at the request of a victim or witness.

Recordings generally would not be subject to the state’s open records law, unless they contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, the discharge of a weapon or a death. Recordings would not be used to catch police committing minor infractions.