Batavia police plan to start wearing body cameras

Batavia police will start wearing body cameras as soon as they can get them.

Aldermen Tuesday gave the police department unofficial approval to prepare a contract for a five-year lease of 41 cameras at an estimated cost of $140,000.

The city council will take a binding vote at a later, unspecified date.

"We would prefer to move forward sooner than later," Police Chief Dan Eul told aldermen during a committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Eul said he wants to lease them now rather than waiting for the new budget year to start Jan. 1. He said the cameras may not arrive until late March due to demand.

"All the vendors for body-worn cameras are being crushed," he said.

In discussions with residents after the death of George Floyd in May in Minneapolis, many people wanted to know why Batavia police officers don't wear body cameras, according to Eul.

He said he expects state lawmakers to introduce legislation requiring officers to wear body cameras.

"It's pretty obvious that body-worn cameras are at some point in the future ... going to be mandatory equipment throughout the country," Eul said.

The cameras were not budgeted and are a significant cost, he said. But there is an "opportunity cost" if officers don't start wearing cameras, he said.

"The largest risk (to the city) can't be quantified with money, and that is trust and transparency," said Alderman Martin Callahan, who used to be a police officer in New Mexico. "There is nothing to be afraid of (in using body cameras). When the public has faith in our law enforcement and our leaders in the police department, the town is safer. Not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically."

He said doing so adds to people's feeling a welcoming sense of place in Batavia.

"You want to know you belong. You want to know that there are no barriers to the right thing," Callahan said.

Batavia will piggyback on a contract Kane County is signing with Getac Technology. The county's contract calls for Getac to make the cameras available - at the same price the county is paying - to other law enforcement agencies in Kane.

Eul described one of the features the department likes: When other officers respond to a scene where the first officer has a camera switched on, the other officers' cameras will automatically turn on.

Camera recordings will be stored on an internet cloud server.

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