Video and audio recordings will be an automatic part of every traffic stop Naperville police officers make beginning next year, when the city installs cameras in squad cars for the first time.
A $295,970 contract with WatchGuard Video of Allen, Texas, will bring two digital video cameras to each of the police department's 38 cars. The move means Naperville will be joining the majority of area departments in recording video of police interactions with the public.
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"As a former police officer, I've been looking forward to this for a long time," Mayor George Pradel said as the city council approved purchase of the cameras last week. "It protects the officers from anything that is in doubt because it's on video and it also protects the citizen."
Video and audio recorded by the cameras placed at the front and back of each squad can be used as evidence in court. The recordings often paint a much better picture for the jury and judge than testimony alone, police Chief Robert Marshall said.
Funding for the cameras, mounting equipment and other system components comes from the DUI technology account, in which the city collects a $350 fee for every DUI within its borders.
The cameras are expected to last five to seven years providing HD video and a wireless microphone with a one- to two-mile range. The contract also comes with four years of maintenance, and training officers to use the system could take as little as 15 minutes.
While some council members voiced concerns about future maintenance of the software once this contract expires, all said they supported the use of in-car cameras to enhance officer safety, protect the city from unfounded allegations of officer misconduct and increase transparency.
"There are benefits to both the police officers and those pulled over," council member Grant Wehrli said. "I've been looking forward to having in-car cameras for a while for a lot of reasons and one of them is to protect the cops."
The city last month came to a $435,000 settlement of an excessive force lawsuit filed by a Lemont woman who suffered a torn rotator cuff during a struggle with police in 2010. "If we had cameras, it might have went a different way," council member Doug Krause said.
"It really is a help to all of our police officers," Pradel said. "And I think we owe it to them as well as our citizens.