Highland Park Police Department launches body-worn camera program

The City of Highland Park this month announced the launch of body-worn cameras throughout its police department.

The purpose of the body-worn cameras is to collect data, document encounters, assist in investigations and enhance training. The program integrates with cameras in police vehicles as well as Taser activations.

The state of Illinois has required all uniformed police officers wear body cameras by Jan. 1, 2025.

"The implementation of the body-worn camera program demonstrates the city council's strong commitment to the city's core priority of public safety," Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering stated in a news release.

"The city's long-term, strategic financial planning has established us to implement this important tool that increases transparency and strengthens public safety in a fiscally responsible manner ahead of the state requirement."

Illinois law states that body-worn cameras must be turned on at all times when an on-duty police officer is in uniform and responding to calls for service or engaged in law enforcement-related activities. Cameras are always on, but the officer activates the recording.

The camera will save 30 seconds of video without audio before activation. Individuals may request that an officer turn off their camera while making a report, the release stated, but it is at the officer's discretion to do so based upon safety considerations and the circumstances of the call.

Law enforcement agencies using a body camera system must provide an annual report to the Illinois Law Enforcement Training & Standards Board. The report includes information about the department, its process and specific details for each recording used in prosecution of conservation, criminal or traffic offenses and municipal ordinance violations. The board then evaluates information from statewide departments to create an annual report for the Illinois General Assembly.

Following Highland Park Police Department strategic planning in 2021, which included discussion with community stakeholders, city staff researched and tested body camera systems for four months.

People had expressed interest in body-worn cameras following national discussions about law enforcement engagement with people of color in 2020, according to the city.

Approved at its City Council meeting of Dec. 13, 2021, Highland Park leased the integrated system from Axon Enterprises, Inc., at a cost of $760,240 for five years.

"Body-worn cameras represent a significant investment in our department's ability to continue to build and maintain trust and engagement with our community, one of the department's core priorities," Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said in the city release.

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