Round Lake Park police to wear body cameras

A new level of policing will come to Round Lake Park next month when the department deploys body and vehicle cameras for its officers.

"I feel much better having these as soon as possible," Chief George Filenko said.

The in-car and body-worn equipment supplied by Texas-based WatchGuard Video is regarded as the most advanced on the market and includes a panoramic view camera in the car that doubles the coverage area to capture what otherwise would have occurred off screen, Filenko said.

The ability to capture the same situation with multiple high-definition camera views, based on the vantage point of the officer and the police car, is a strong point, he added.

All 13 officers and six vehicles will be equipped with devices intended to provide the best images available, Filenko said. For example, lenses on the body cameras can be adjusted to the height perspective of the officer, and one of the three cameras in the cars will provide a "widescreen dimension" and interact with the body cameras, he added.

"We wanted true optics," Filenko said. "Whatever you see at night is what the camera videotapes. You don't want the camera to enhance."

The cost of 14 body-worn (including one extra), six in-car systems, a server and installation is about $60,000, officials said. Funding was included in the 2015 municipal budget.

The rollout is scheduled for early to mid-September.

Round Lake Park is believed to be the first municipal department in Lake County to equip its officers with body cameras, but it has been a lengthy process.

The department began looking to incorporate body cameras about 2½ years ago after its vehicle video system was voluntarily shut down because only a few cameras were left from the proprietary system and the vendor had gone out of business, Filenko said.

At the time, he said, he knew the reliance on video was going to grow, and the department checked into cameras for officers and vehicles.

"They were still kind of in the experimental stage," he said of body cameras. Round Lake Park officers tested cameras mounted on caps and lapels. Officers supported the use of cameras but found them difficult to use, he added.

"Unfortunately, it took a national incident - Ferguson - to spotlight body cameras," Filenko said,

Round Lake Park officers have evaluated the new cameras, Filenko said, and each was "completely in favor." He estimated the cameras will cut investigative time regarding officer complaints by 80 percent.

The new cameras will attach beneath officers' vests or shirts with a powerful magnet. They will allow the officer to immediately attach a report number to a given action, and the cameras will include redaction software for Freedom of Information ACT or other requests that may trigger privacy concerns.


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