Round Lake Park authorizes body cams for police
Round Lake Park could become the first community in Lake County to outfit its police officers with body cameras, a situation authorities say they welcome but comes with a variety of issues that need to be addressed.
As part of the 2015-16 budget, the village board on Tuesday unanimously authorized Police Chief George Filenko to spend up to $60,000 for a video system for seven front-line squad cars and body cameras for 13 officers.
"This wasn't knee jerk and there is no rush to this," Filenko said. "This is not just something we've been looking at because of what's going on," he added.
The department discontinued its use of in-car video about three years ago. That was a proprietary system and when the supplier went out of business, it became impractical to use of the equipment, Filenko said.
Since then, police behavior in several high-profile national cases has come into question.
"Obviously, there's a national mistrust of the police and policing in general," Filenko said. "There been an outcry for video."
He said he has been considering body cameras for officers for about two years and had acquired some test cameras but found them too cumbersome. That has changed with the times and there are vendors now that provide both in-car and body cameras.
"If you only have one system, it's a one-dimensional perspective," he said.
Filenko's request was unanimously approved by the village board as part of the capital budget.
"We feel it's very important to do it now as opposed to later, given everything that's going (on) with different departments and jurisdictions," Mayor Linda Lucassen said.
"These days, we feel we have to prove every (police) step is legitimate. They (the public) don't have the trust like they once did," she said.
Some communities, such as Elgin and Waukegan, are considering body cameras for police but their actual implementation is sparse. That's partially a question of cost, particularly for data storage, as well as current state law that provides an expectation of privacy, according to those familiar with the issue.
"Chicago has a pilot program right now. Everybody knows about it and is keeping an eye on it," said Paul Shafer, Highland Park police chief and president of the Lake County Chiefs of Police Association. "Everybody has some concerns with the legality of it," he added.
Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim said body cameras are "one of our main areas of focus right now," and he has encouraged departments to look at the guidelines being used in Chicago.
"Every chief I've talked to is receptive to the idea. It boils down to cost," he said.
The use of body cameras is governed by Illinois' eavesdropping law, according to Nerheim.
Besides the expectation of privacy, other questions include how long the video needs to be stored or when can an officer turn the camera on or off, for example.
Legislation is pending in Springfield that "cleans up a lot of issues" regarding the use of body cameras, Nerheim added.
"Most departments will probably start to be equipped with them so there will have to be changes in the law," Filenko said.
Filenko heads the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. He said "more video is always good" when it comes to investigations.
"I don't want to be that department that didn't have equipment that could have proved something one way or the other," he said.
Filenko said a contract for the equipment has not yet been signed.