Bill would require all law enforcement to use body cameras by 2025
A criminal justice bill passed by the General Assembly last month would, if signed by the governor, mandate body cameras for all Illinois law enforcement officers.
The legislation, part of House Bill 3653, is a change from current law that says any officer may use the cameras.
Some suburban police chiefs support the bill, while others say it is too costly. The deadline is staggered by the size of departments: Jan. 1, 2022, for municipalities and counties with more than 500,000 people, 2023 for those with more than 100,000 people, 2024 for those with more than 50,000 people and 2025 for every department.
The bill does not contain any penalties for noncompliance. A previous version would have cut funding for governments that did not comply. That was stripped from the final package in the face of faced heavy opposition from law enforcement groups and municipal associations. Enough Democrats, such as state Sen. Laura Ellman of Naperville, opposed the provision that the bill could not attain enough support to pass until its removal.
Now, instead of penalizing agencies that flout the mandate, the legislation attempts to reward compliance. Law enforcement agencies that institute body cameras preference for grants awarded by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.
Unlike many of the other provisions in the criminal justice reform legislation, body cameras have been supported by many in law enforcement. Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley, in testimony last year before the Senate Criminal Law Committee and Senate Special Committee on Public Safety, supported the claim that body cameras help law enforcement and the justice system solve cases swiftly and accurately.
But she said Elgin would not have been able to implement body cameras in 2015 if it had not received a $500,000 federal grant. The department spends $170,000 each year for data storage for its force of 182 officers, according to Lalley.
Illinois law requires all body camera footage be stored for at least 90 days. Only 75 law enforcement agencies in the state, out of about 900, use body cameras.
A 2019 investigation from The Washington Post found many police departments around the country canceled body camera programs because of the cost of storage, including the East Dundee Police Department. The village did not want to pay $20,000 annually to maintain storage for its 20 police officers' camera footage.
With no actual penalty for noncompliance and no financial assistance being offered by the law, it's unclear how successful the provision will be in encouraging the adoption of body cameras
A spokesperson for Republican state lawmakers said with the inclusion of the unfunded mandate, "it can be argued they are setting the officers up to fail." GOP lawmakers and law enforcement groups have repeatedly called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to veto the legislation once it arrives on his desk.
The primary sponsors of the bill, Chicago Democrats Sen. Elgie Sims and Rep. Justin Slaughter, have said issues funding can be addressed in follow-up legislation.
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