Elgin cops body cameras expected by summer

  • Michael Hutton is among eight police officers who are wearing body cameras for a pilot program in Elgin. The city accepted a $250,000 federal matching grant to purchase cameras for the entire department.

      Michael Hutton is among eight police officers who are wearing body cameras for a pilot program in Elgin. The city accepted a $250,000 federal matching grant to purchase cameras for the entire department. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

Elgin police officers are expected to be equipped with body cameras by next summer.

The city council formally accepted last week a U.S. Department of Justice grant of up to $250,000, with the city kicking in an equivalent amount from police drug asset forfeiture funds. The city has until Sept. 30, 2017 to use the federal money, Cmdr. Ana Lalley said.

Seven Elgin officers -- down from eight after one was injured in an unrelated incident -- have been testing body cameras for a pilot program that kicked off in September, Lalley said.

Once the group is done between five and seven cameras there will be a formal presentation to police top brass, and possibly the city council, in February or March, Lalley said.

The city will put out a request for proposals before making purchases, she said. "Having them by summer is a realistic goal," she said.

Key policy decisions will include how to store video footage, how to handle Freedom of Information Act requests and myriad privacy issues.

"We still have to work our way through all this stuff. We're not rushing through anything," she said. "We are being thorough."

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Elgin is among three law enforcement agencies in Illinois selected for the grant, along with Chicago and the Lake County Sheriff's office. Altogether, 73 law enforcement agencies nationwide -- out of 285 that applied -- were selected for the $20 million body camera pilot program.

First to get body cameras in Elgin will be officers who deal directly with the public, such as patrol, the gang unit and the unit for special assignments, Lalley said.

It's not known if all 180 officers each will get a camera or if they will share them, based on considerations including storage and battery life, Lalley said. Also, officers tend to take better care of their own equipment, she said.

"It's very easy to support this," Councilman Terry Gavin said. "I think it protects the city. I think it protects the citizens," he added, noting, however, that he might have not supported the expense without the federal grant.

Elgin police officers currently are informing people they are being recorded and switch off the cameras when requested, but that will change as of Jan. 1, when a new law goes into effect requiring cameras to be turned on at all times when officers are on duty. The Law Enforcement Body Worn Camera Act also has provisions for recording of victims' reports and the expectation of privacy, such as in hospitals.

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