Elgin selected for police body camera grant

  • The Elgin Police Department has been testing body cameras for more than two years. Officials announced Tuesday the department was awarded a $250,000 matching federal grant to purchase the cameras.

    The Elgin Police Department has been testing body cameras for more than two years. Officials announced Tuesday the department was awarded a $250,000 matching federal grant to purchase the cameras. Daily Herald archive/Laura Stoecker

 
 

Elgin is among three law enforcement agencies across Illinois selected to receive federal money to purchase body cameras.

The city was awarded $250,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice, while the city of Chicago is getting $1 million and the Lake County Sheriff's office is getting $73,000, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin announced in a news release Tuesday.

"This funding is an investment in the safety and security of both our nation's law enforcement officers and the people they are called upon day after day to serve and protect," Durbin said. "We must ensure that local law enforcement agencies are equipped with the best tools possible to do their jobs well and protect the communities they serve."

Altogether, 73 law enforcement agencies across the country were selected for the $20 million body camera pilot program.

Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said the grant is a matching one, meaning the city can choose to match any amount up to $250,000 as part of its 2016 budget process. The city's fiscal year starts Jan. 1.

Matching the full $250,000 would allow the department to outfit all 180 police officers with body cameras and purchase all necessary technical equipment such as software, Swoboda said.

"I'm very proud that we were selected as part of only three agencies in Illinois," he said.

Eight patrol officers in Elgin have been wearing body cameras for about two weeks, Swoboda said. The police department has been testing the cameras for more than two years, and in the last couple months developed policies for their use, Swoboda said. That includes, for example, decisions such as turning them off during an interview with a victim and editing out bystanders' faces, he explained.

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Swoboda said he and Cmdr. Ana Lalley will give a presentation about the body camera pilot program to the city council on Wednesday night.

Law enforcement agencies from 42 states submitted 285 applications, requesting more than $56 million in federal funding. Altogether, the funding awarded will provide 21,000 new cameras across the country.

Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said in the news release he was "extremely pleased" the city was selected.

"Our police department regularly shows its dedication to building community trust and promoting transparency through a number of policing strategies. This will serve as another critical tool in our police department's comprehensive problem-solving strategy to enhance officer interactions with the public."

Deputy Chief Bill Wolf said the police department had requested the city to include $400,000 for body cameras in its 2016 budget, before finding out it was awarded the federal grant.

The police department has made past equipment purchases -- such as its armored vehicle -- out of its drug asset forfeiture fund, which has about $500,000, Wolf said. However, that money is designed to fund the self-sustaining drug unit's operations and is not part of the budget process, Wolf said.

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