Body Cameras

Chicago Police to Speed Up Body Camera Adoption, Assuming Officers Don't Sabotage Them

Also keep an eye out for foot-dragging on releasing footage of controversial calls.

|

Chicago Police
Erin Hooley/TNS/Newscom

Today the City of Chicago is set to announce that it's speeding up the adoption of body cameras on every patrolling police officer. Originally they had planned to get everybody cameras by the end of 2018. Now they're planning to roll it all out by the end of next year.

Currently officers in a third of Chicago's 22 police districts have body cameras. Given Chicago's reputation as having the most corrupt, abusive law enforcement system in any major city, the idea of them implementing body cameras more quickly seems like good news on the surface.

But as we're learning with police and body cameras, the devil is in the details, and what happens after the body cameras actually come into play matters. As a reminder consider everything surrounding the case of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting Laquan McDonald back in 2014. The shooting was captured on a police dash camera, but the city sat on the video and wouldn't publicly release it for a year until ordered to do so by a judge, coincidentally around the time Van Dyke was finally charged with murder.

Even then, there was a lot of footage of the incident missing. The dash cameras of several police cars on the scene were not working and the video footage that was released lacked any audio. And according to internal reviews of the police department this was likely a result of "intentional damage" caused by the officers themselves. After administration cracked down on officers to make sure they were following procedures properly, Chicago Police saw a 70 percent increase in the amount of camera footage uploaded each shift.

That's all a reminder that all the video equipment in the world won't matter when police are not held accountable for ignoring policies (the crackdown here happened only after they discovered all the problems with footage in the McDonald case) and when the city itself deliberately avoids transparency in situations of controversy about police behavior.

Note that the National Fraternal Order of Police is encouraging President-Elect Donald Trump to "de-prioritize" implementation of many of the recommendations listed by President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Increased implementation of body cameras by law enforcement agencies across the country is one of the items on the list.

Trump shouldn't have any authority one way or another over whether municipal police implement body cameras (neither does Obama). But the Department of Justice began offering grants to help police pay for them in 2015. A Trump administration could eliminate such grants. (Note: We shouldn't necessarily support federal funding for body cameras, which encourage companies to jack up the prices to get more of the money. But it is a consequence that will probably slow implementation in some places.)

Advertisement

NEXT: Upcoming talks at the AALS Annual Meeting

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If Cops would just think about it, the camera will be there best friend. As long as they are not corrupt, jack-booted thugs pretending to uphold the law.

    1. “As long as they are not corrupt, jack-booted thugs pretending to uphold the law.”

      Therein lies the rub.

      1. Yes, that might be a flaw.

        Here in Knoxville, TN the city police have a weird habit of placing their thumb over the microphone at various times as they question people.

        Must be some sort of evidence enhancement.

  2. That’s all a reminder that all the video equipment in the world won’t matter when police are not held accountable for ignoring policies…

    It’s not against the law in Chicago to destroy evidence?

    1. De jure? Sure.

      De facto? Well, it depends.

      1. What about evidence enhancement?

  3. Not that Reason would support Federal legislation requiring all cops to wear body cameras (federalism and all that… states rights, etc.) it is my humble opinion that all patrol officers should wear body cameras.

    It helps everybody we want to help and helps bring bad guys to justice – whether cops or others.

    It not only helps get justice in cases of bad conduct (noncop or cop – false complaint or justified etc. ), it ultimately improves conduct – cops and noncops, when people know they are more likely to be held accountable for their behavior- they behave better. shocking concept I know.

    As somebody who has won a quite hefty sum (thanks taxpayers!) taking civil action against violation of my rights by police, I’m for anything that increases access to the truth – whether it’s cop misconduct or cop GOOD conduct despite a false complaint otherwise.

    This should be a no brainer for anybody who supports open, competent, accountable govt. AND empowering cops with greater tools to sue or press charges in cases of false, malicious etc. complaints.

    all of those things are good

    1. So you would agree, based on this:

      After administration cracked down on officers to make sure they were following procedures properly, Chicago Police saw a 70 percent increase in the amount of camera footage uploaded each shift.

      That approximately 70% of the Chicago cops do not support “open, competent, accountable govt.” and would seem to believe they are on the short end of “increasing access to the truth”?

      1. I think that’s a silly conclusion

        never assume wicked intent when laziness or incompetence suffice to fit the evidence

        iow, especially as concerns govt., laziness or incompetence is more likely an explanation than nefarious intent you assume

        the more likely conclusion at least as to the vast majority of those that weren’t following procedure is that cops were lazy and since the procedures weren’t enforced, many of them slacked off following the procedures.

        im *so* not shocked.

        I made a bet with myself before checking…

        yup, I checked… CPD is not accredited with CALEA

        again…. unshocked

        1. never assume wicked intent when laziness or incompetence suffice to fit the evidence

          The evidence is that non-working cameras are caused by intentional damage inflicted by police.

          And that when the department cracked down on that, video uploads increased by 70%.

          My conclusion that 70% of cops are bad cops may be off. If the video upload rate was 50%, a 70% increase would be only 35%, assuming the 70% is the rate of increase from the previous upload percentage. But, if a significant percentage of cameras were being intentionally damaged, there’s no way other officers didn’t know, and tolerate that, so the pool of bad officers would include those that tolerate other bad officers.

          1. One more; you can’t get a 70% increase on a base rate of more than 60% (70% of 60% is 42%, which, added to 60% is more than 100%).

            So, at least 40% of cameras were non-functional, and probably more. We know some of those are due to intentional damage, and I think you can fairly say the rest were due to incompetence/negligence.

            I fail to see how this doesn’t mean at least 40% of the Chicago PD are bad cops, either by malice or negligence. And, yes, being negligent can make you a bad person.

        2. Laziness and incompetence would have left the recording equipment working properly.

          It takes effort and skill to disable that gear. INTENTIONAL effort.

    2. And let’s not forget, it protects good cops also. There have been cases where police have been exonerated by body cams.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.