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updated: 10/24/2012 4:27 PM

Schaumburg police to get new cameras in squad cars

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Schaumburg police will use grant funding to install a $344,620, state-of-the-art video system in all their vehicles at no additional cost to the village.

The system, which can record video all around a squad car or police motorcycle, can be used to capture events and interviews admissible as evidence, as well as to protect officers' and citizens' safety, Schaumburg Police Chief Brian Howerton said.

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The purchase approved by village trustees this week will equip 40 police vehicles -- which includes all its marked squad cars and even Howerton's own vehicle.

"If I'm going to expect (the officers) to do it, I'm going to have it on mine," Howerton said.

While the evidence from a squad car camera was used last year to convict a Streamwood police officer of using excessive force, cameras work to officers' benefit at least 90 percent of the time, Howerton said. Just the knowledge that whole incidents were recorded have been enough to cause some arrestees to instantly retract threats to accuse officers of brutality, he added.

Though officers will have the ability to voluntarily activate the recording, the system is also designed to capture any significant incident on its own. As the cameras are being installed, the department will establish policies and protocols determining how system will activate itself.

During the last seven to eight years the department has only had a short-lived accident prevention camera system in its vehicles. That was abandoned for being overly sensitive -- activating every time a pothole was hit.

Before that a VHS video system was scrapped after becoming outdated.

"We wanted to wait for digital to advance," Howerton said. "With this funding becoming available, we started doing our research."

The funding is coming from a $299,818 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity -- intended for some type of capital improvement in the village -- as well as $34,802 from the Police Department DUI Technology Fund. It's expected that the prosecution of DUI charges will be among the regular uses of the cameras.

Though Schaumburg has been behind some other departments that have been using cameras the past several years, the purchase should put the village near the front of the pack. There's no other system on the market as sophisticated, Howerton said.

The village also signed up for the maximum maintenance coverage for the next five years -- which is as long as such technology can usually be considered current, he added.

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