CPD, FOP divided over effectiveness of body cams

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It all started back on October 20, 2014. That’s when Laquan McDonald was killed by a Chicago Police officer.

A year and a few days after his death, police dashcam video was released. As a result of how the video was exposed and what it showed, issues with transparency were exposed.

The City of Chicago responded to those problems by starting a pilot body camera program in  2015. Now a month into 2018, more than 7,000 body cameras are being used by Chicago Police officers on patrol.

Body cameras have been in use by the Chicago Police Department for almost three years, and still there’s a divide over their use. The Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago and The Chicago Police Department can’t seem to agree.

”It strengthens transparency and enhances officer’s behavior and professionalism,” said Jorge L. Flores, a Sergeant with the Chicago Police Department.

The President for the union, the Fraternal Order of Police, says he’s not convinced that cameras are effective.

“My biggest complaint about the cameras are they don’t capture what happens outside of the frame of the camera and what you can’t see,” said Kevin Graham, President of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago.

The two sides have remained so divided that Illinois Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge Anna Hamburg-Gal told the Illinois Labor Board to work out a plan in good faith to use the body cameras.

Judge Hamburg-Gal also said the city violated state labor law by going around FOP.

This is how they work.

An officer must announce he or she is recording when you encounter them.

Once an officer gets an assignment from this dispatcher, they are supposed to activate the body camera immediately.

“You hit the event button two times to activate camera,” said Sergeant Jorge L. Flores. “You hear the beep and vibration and now it’s beeping and you see red blinking and that means it’s recording video and full audio.”

Officers sometimes do forget to record and there are rules in place for that.

“If an officer fails to record, he must create a subsequent video immediately after. They must note the event they failed to record. The event number and their reason for not recording and the outcome of the incident.”

Officers forgetting to record more than a few times have been suspended without pay.

“There could be additional training,” said Sergeant Jorge L. Flores. “Could be progressive discipline. Could be counseled. Could be sparred which is four month discipline.”

A victim or witness can ask an officer to stop recording, but it’s up to the officer to make the call.

Every camera has an officer’s identification number. They are stored and docked inside every police station.

No one in the Chicago Police Department can erase or edit a video.

So far, CPD has kept every single clip. There are more than 1,600,000 clips saved, with no plan in place to delete them.

The body cameras are made by Axon based in Phoenix, Arizona. The Axon 2 cameras do roll 30 seconds before any incident with no audio.

“They cost $399.00 each and on average the storage fees per month range from $15-$59 per month per officer for data files that are kept,” Steve Tuttle, Axon Vice President of Strategic Communication.