Chicago announces expansion of police body-camera program

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -- The Chicago Police Department is getting more than 1,000 body cameras by the middle of next year, and the announcement comes at a time when city officials are dealing with a controversial police shooting.

The new cameras will expand the city’s pilot program, which started in January with 30 officers in the 14th district. Over the next several months, 1,200 to 1,400 will be delivered to six more districts. The cameras are being paid for by a $1.1 million dollar federal grant with the city matching that amount.

Emanuel said in a statement Sunday adding these devices will enhance transparency, credibility and “strengthen the fabric of trust that is vital between police and the community.”

That trust is at a low level after officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 2014 death of Laquan McDonald, 17. McDonald was shot 16 times. It took more than a year for dash cam video of the shooting to be released and for Van Dyke to be charged.

Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo said some officers are feeling hesitant about the body camera program expansion, but he believes the cameras can be beneficial in some cases. Body cameras might even have exonerated Van Dyke, he said.

“It could've answered a lot of questions,” Angelo said.  “No one knows what he was actually looking at, at the time or moments before that event occurred. I think in that situation it would have been a clear cut picture on what he was looking at down the barrel of his weapon.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said that documentation devices like body cameras can be helpful to both sides in a confrontation.

“What we've seen over the last few days is that video is important,” said ACLU Director of Communications Ed Yohnka.  “It clears a lot of officers from having complaints lodged against them that are unfounded, but it really does control and it changes behavior.”

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