Last year the state of Illinois passed one of the more comprehensive laws in the nation surrounding the use of police body cameras. Although it stopped short of requiring their use, the law explained training regimens, outlined reporting requirements and even offered law enforcement exemption from the state’s eavesdropping law, which prohibits some recording, yet more and more departments are leaving the expensive equipment on the shelves, drawing ire of local residents.
So why aren’t police using the body cameras? According to Ed Wojcicki, Executive Director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the same law that allows police to record also lists strict regulations that must be followed, and police don’t have the time or the funds to ensure all the rules are followed.
“Departments are trying to cooperate, but when you get right down to it, it’s too difficult,” said Wojcicki. “A lot of police departments are small. To find somebody to do that labor is problematic,” Wojcicki said.
Body Camera Problems
Securing police body camera footage isn’t as simple as ejecting a tape and putting it on a shelf at the end of the shift. Here’s a look at some of the obstacles that police are finding problematic when it comes to recording interactions with citizens:
- All departments are required to blur faces of people seen in footage who aren’t subject of an investigation, which is time consuming.
- Victims at a crime scene have the right to request officers to turn off their camera.
- A $5 fee was added on to Illinois traffic tickets to help fund police body camera use, but amid state budgetary concerns, it’s unclear when that money will be distributed to the departments.
Minooka Police Chief Justin Meyer echoed Wojcicki’s sentiments about police body cameras, saying they have real-world benefits, but the current legislation needs to be reworked.
“I was happy [with the body cameras],” said Meyer. “It just became a bit burdensome for our administrative staff.”
Despite the bureaucratic red tape, many departments still plan to continue their body camera programs. Springfield police recently decided to expand its body camera use, and Chicago is set to receive 450 body cameras this week as part of a pilot program. Hopefully police officers and legislators can take a closer look at the regulations to find a better solution that results in more recordings, because officer-involved shootings continue to draw scrutiny in Illinois and across the nation.