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posted: 7/12/2017 1:00 AM

McMahon sees challenges, but more opportunities, with Elgin police cameras

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  • Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon

    Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon

 
 

Elgin police have begun using body cameras to record law enforcement efforts in executing search warrants and other instances.

And by year's end, the department hopes to have 140 cameras equipped for officers.

But the additional recorded evidence has created new challenges for prosecutors and law enforcement, such as more time and resources needed to review the video before making a decision to charge a case, and storing the video until a case is resolved or it goes to trial.

In his monthly media meeting Tuesday, Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said the new form of evidence can be invaluable in capturing a witness or suspect's facial expression, tone of voice and other observations previously unavailable.

"It gives judges and juries a much better picture of what happened," McMahon said of the cameras. "They provide accountability to both sides of the (police-public) relationship. I think that's not only the goal for law enforcement, but the criminal justice system in general."

McMahon said prosecutors must review video before authorizing charges in certain cases. That's required some state's attorney's offices, such as Los Angeles County, to hire more prosecutors.

If there are five officers with an hour of camera time each, that's five hours of evidence to review.

"If we have eight hours of video recording, how do we pare that down for a jury?" McMahon said.

He acknowledged the additional evidence provided by the cameras can help reach a resolution -- or guilty plea -- quicker if prosecutors and defense attorneys have a chance to watch the video and contemplate the potential weaknesses to a case.

Only about 3 percent to 6 percent of all cases nationally go to trial, but McMahon says trials are good for transparency.

Evidence provided by cameras will be invaluable to juries and judges, he said, and the public has a right to observe and scrutinize how prosecutors do their jobs and take cases to trial.

"It's expensive to try a case, it's time consuming and the stakes are high. But I think the public wants to see us, (and) the police, try cases," McMahon said.

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