Round Lake Park officers sue department over body cameras
Ten Round Lake Park police officers have filed a federal lawsuit seeking more than $15 million, claiming body cameras that recorded them during private times violated their civil rights and right to privacy and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.
However, Police Chief George Filenko said the officers "made a quick rush to judgment without considering all the facts."
The complaint, filed Thursday, comes in the wake of village police officials suspending the use of their department's body-worn cameras in May after discovering the devices recorded officers at all times, including when offers were in the locker room and using the washroom.
The suit claims the police department, Filenko and Deputy Chief Daniel Burch "willfully allowed the unauthorized and prohibited BWC recordings of the officers" during private times and viewed the videos over a seven-month period.
It states one officer named in the complaint discovered the unauthorized videos when he was looking for a video in another case while logged into the recording system under Burch's administrator access. After the officer discovered the video, the suit claims, Burch erased all videos in violation of Illinois' Law Enforcement Body Worn Camera Act.
The lawsuit seeks in excess of $100,000 for each individual count for each of the 10 officers named. There are five total counts against the village and police department and five counts against each Filenko and Burch.
The counts claim a violation of civil rights, violation of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of the Illinois Constitution and spoiling evidence.
Filenko said the department immediately removed the body cameras from service after officials learned the devices obtained through Watch Guard Systems were not recording in conjunction with protocols. He also said the department called in an independent investigator and legal counsel to review what happened, and police officials have spoken with "every officer about the issue."
"The police officers who filed the lawsuit against the village made a quick rush to judgment, without considering all of the facts," Filenko said in an emailed statement. "Not only did the plaintiff officers jump the gun in filing the lawsuit, they also refused to cooperate with the investigation initiated to get to the truth of the matter."
Round Lake Park police began using body cameras in August in an effort to increase transparency between the department and residents, Filenko said previously. He added the program was successful in assisting officers and in defusing potential situations with people who were recorded.