Chicago's top police brass go on patrol, explain body camera program

Chicago police are about to launch a significant expansion of their use of body cameras. Two thousand more cameras have been ordered, just in time for summer when violence tends to spike in the city.

On Friday night, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was wearing one and talked about the city's plans.

This new batch, the second generation of body worn cameras, will be deployed in high crime districts starting in the next few weeks. They will help with the mission of increasing police accountability. But the superintendent is also hoping this program will reduce crime by improving police relations among those they are sworn to protect and serve.

On a warm Friday night when things were hopping on the West Side, Superintendent Johnson was out on patrol wearing his body camera for the first time. It's a demonstration of the top down accountability he wants to model in his department, and for the people of the city in communities where trust is broken.

“As I said from day one body cameras just go towards promoting accountability, transparency and it ensures that the police respond appropriately, professionally, and respectfully. But it also changes the behaviors of the citizens that we encounter,” Johnson said.

The body camera pilot program was rolled out a year ago and has been tested in the 14th district. It will now be expanded into to seven high crime districts, including the 15th district in the Austin neighborhood on a rolling basis. By the end of July, a total of 2000 cameras will be on the street.

On the West Side, the superintendent took a moment to say hello to the woman running a facility that gives  young people place to hang out on a night like this.

FOX 32: What do you think of the superintendent being out here wearing a body camera himself for the first time?

“I think it's great, I think it's great, show some improvement in the neighborhood,” said Beverly Griffin of Rising Stars Youth Club.

On Friday, the superintendent responded to a number of calls and said his interaction with the public has been good. He also said the pilot program has shown results.

“Complaints are down substantially in that one district, and actually when we rolled it out the officers were uncomfortable with it because it was the fear of the unknown, but now they have embraced it and it's a positive thing,” Supt. Johnson said.