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updated: 11/13/2017 1:58 PM

Why DuPage County might not get body cameras for deputies

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DuPage sheriff's deputies probably won't get body cameras next year because of county budget cuts.

The department is eligible for a $75,000 matching grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to buy 100 body cameras, including one for each patrol deputy. But to receive the grant, the county must agree to spent $75,000 to help buy the cameras.

Officials say DuPage can't afford the expenditure as part of its 2018 budget that begins Dec. 1.

"Although the rationale for pursuing this grant was well intentioned, the additional costs and current fiscal condition of the county makes the acceptance of this grant at this time a fiscal impossibility," Sheriff John Zaruba said in an email to county board member Grant Eckhoff.

Sheriff's officials long have wanted body cameras because they believe the devices would increase accountability and transparency and could help de-escalate conflicts.

But on Monday, some county board members said DuPage is facing a budget crunch because of state funding cutbacks and maintaining a body camera program would be too costly.

"We're getting numbers that show it's not just $75,000," board member Jim Zay said. "It's going to cost a lot more."

According to one preliminary estimate, it would cost roughly $300,000 a year to store video footage from 100 cameras. In addition, the state's attorney's office would need to hire a new assistant state's attorney and another support staff member to catalog the data and respond to the inevitable Freedom of Information requests.

There also could be increased costs for the public defender's office and the circuit court clerk's office, which would have to store copies of the video footage related to court cases, Zay said.

Still, the sheriff's office hasn't been told to refuse the grant, said Eckhoff, chairman of the county board's judicial and public safety committee.

"But they would have to locate the money (for the $75,000 match) within their own budget," Eckhoff said.

The problem with that idea is the county reduced the sheriff's proposed 2018 budget by 4 percent. Sheriff's officials say they weren't anticipating the cut when they first applied for the grant.

Zaruba said the fiscal challenges are severe, "making it impossible to fund this new program."

The county board has until Nov. 30 to approve its 2018 budget. Members of the board's finance committee are expected to talk about the spending plan on Tuesday morning.

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