Kane County panel backs body cameras as board chairman chastises cop critics

Kane County sheriff's deputies will likely wear body cameras for the first time before the end of the year after a unanimous preliminary vote Thursday.

Sheriff Ron Hain had informed the board earlier in the week he would request permission to install and upgrade cameras on all squad cars. Most of the vehicles have cameras now. A pending purchase of new equipment would upgrade all those cameras and put them on the same system.

But Hain included a late change in his request Thursday to add body cameras for officers.

Hain received an updated bid for the equipment from Decatur-based Midwest Public Safety LLC that was cheaper than expected. The total cost for all the cameras would be $136,000 per year in a lease deal for the next five years. Hain said he has savings within his department that would cover the first-year costs.

The county board committee that oversees Hain's department unanimously supported the camera purchases. The full county board must still grant final approval. That could come as early next month.

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon spoke in support of the body cameras. He said only a couple of police departments in all of Kane County currently use the devices. But there are good reasons to embrace the technology.

"They are good for the community, but they are good for police officers as well," McMahon said. "It protects them in claims of harassment."

McMahon said national studies also indicate police departments who use the cameras also have fewer workers' compensation claims.

The cameras are a step toward police reforms called for by the public around the country after the killing of a George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. It's likely to be one of several reforms discussed by Kane County.

Board Chairman Chris Lauzen urged people calling for reforms to do their homework about the policies local departments already have in place.

For instance, Kane County policy bans chokeholds and strikes to the head, and it requires fellow officers to intervene when excessive force is used by a fellow deputy.

Lauzen also called on the public to think about how difficult it is to be a police officer.

"I would ask if any of those people have ever had to confront the violent circumstances that these officers have had to witness on a daily basis," Lauzen said, "if they have ever confronted the viciousness and had to look at that and had to deal with that."

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.