Arlington Heights police become latest suburban department to use body cameras

  • Arlington Heights police officers are doing scenario-based training as part of the launch of body cameras.

    Arlington Heights police officers are doing scenario-based training as part of the launch of body cameras. Courtesy of Arlington Heights Police Department

 
 
Updated 3/31/2022 5:57 AM

A dozen Arlington Heights police officers are the first in town to wear body cameras as part of the department's phased deployment of the recording devices onto the uniforms of all 107 cops by this summer.

Ten to 12 officers will receive the cameras every week -- along with a new Taser -- and do scenario-based training before they hit the streets.

 

Arlington Heights joins the roster of area departments that already have equipped their officers with cameras before they become mandatory in 2025, under state legislation approved about a year ago.

"We started looking at body cameras even before that, because we understand there's a significant value in body cameras -- capturing interactions with citizens, evidence of any crimes that could assist with prosecution," said Deputy Chief Greg Czernecki, who is overseeing the program's rollout. "The legislation pushed us further in that direction."

The village board inked a five-year, $1.3 million contract last November with Scottsdale, Arizona-based Axon Enterprises, which is providing the body cameras, replacement Tasers, and new in-squad dash cameras -- technology that will all be synchronized and supported by a single cloud-based digital storage system.

Czernecki said the cameras can be activated a few different ways. The cameras are always in "buffering" mode -- constantly recording video -- but a manual push of a button will turn on the audio. And sensors in the camera will activate the audio if an officer unholsters a gun or Taser.

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Once Axon installs its dash cameras in squad cars this summer, both dash cameras and body cameras will activate when the vehicle's lights go on.

While existing Tasers already were due for replacement next year and dash cameras follow a similar schedule, department officials decided to consolidate the various systems as they were looking into buying body cameras. There's an increased cost for all of that, but officials say the manufacturer reduced initial quotes by nearly 20%.

"For an agency of our size, the number of officers we have and the amount of digital evidence we would gather on a daily basis, it just makes sense to have it all in one place as opposed to maintaining multiple silos," said Czernecki, adding that the department will be able to quickly access photos and video in real time for Freedom of Information Act requests and court subpoenas. "It makes sense for us to be able to streamline everything."

Village officials had enough money to pay for the initial year of the camera contract through their criminal investigation fund, but during budget discussions last November, they expressed concern about how to pay the $264,000 annual costs going forward. The department has applied for a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, while also pinning hopes on the feds' reduction of a backlog that would allow asset forfeiture fund revenues to flow to the municipality.

In addition to the 107 sworn Arlington Heights officers, seven civilian public service officers -- who handle parking enforcement and animal control -- will be equipped with body cameras.

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