Lakemoor equipping police officers with body cameras

Lakemoor is the latest Lake County community to equip police with body cameras in what local authorities say is a move to greater public transparency.

"If there is an incident, the public has a right to know what occurred," said Chief David Godlewski.

An advocate of the systems, Godlewski says video is a necessity these days and wanted to make use of available technology. The department received a federal grant to cover half the $25,000 cost of 10 cameras and related expenses.

"We weren't driven by what anybody else was doing," he said. "In-car cameras obviously have limitations. This expands the visibility of video."

Lakemoor has 10 full-time officers, usually with two on the street at a given time. Officers were trained individually beginning May 12, when the first of the cameras went live. New docking and cradles to sync the high definition body cams with in-car video were installed Tuesday in the last two squad cars.

"It syncs the car video to the body video so when it transfers to the server, both videos are linked," said Deputy Chief George Manis.

Eric Schildkraut, owner of SAE Customs in Volo, installed the equipment.

"The two systems actually talk to each other. It gives them lots of different viewpoints to investigate," he said.

In researching the system and its uses, Godlewski determined the best location to attach a camera is in the center of the officer's body just above the belt line. In the event an officer has to use a weapon, that viewpoint will show what is being shot at, not the back of someone's hands and a gun, he said.

Godlewski said a typical video of an assist to a motorist will be kept 60 days before being erased. Those involving arrests will be kept for two years or longer if needed. Five copies are made for court purposes.

"The jury wants to see or the judge wants to see why you pulled them over," Godlewski said.

Lakemoor is among a small but growing number of local departments equipping officers with body-worn cameras. Gurnee began in early March and the Lake County Sheriff's Office is nearly done equipping all 230 deputies, for example.

Mundelein police plan to bring a proposal for body-worn cameras to the village board at the end of June, according to Chief Eric Guenther.

"I think it adds transparency to what we do on a day-to-day basis and in the long run builds trust and confidence among our citizens," said Guenther, who also is president of the Lake County Chiefs of Police Association.

He said technology is not perfect but departments have to keep pace.

"These body cameras aren't the end all, be all," he said. "It's an excellent tool that can be utilized with a number of other things."

Godlewski said the department isn't trying to hide their use of body-worn cameras or fool people.

"Let's face it, if it's not on video, it didn't happen in a lot of people's eyes," he said.

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  Lakemoor police officers now wear body cameras in the middle of their bodies just above the belt line. Mick Zawislak/
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