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Chicago Police To Further Expand Body Camera Program

By aaroncynic in News on Sep 19, 2016 4:36PM

By Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist

Calling it a “win-win for the public and for officers,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said on Sunday that the department plans to expand the use of body cameras to all officers on patrol within the next two years.

“Since becoming Superintendent I have pledged to rebuild public trust and accountability,” Johnson said in a statement released on Sunday. “Body-worn cameras provide a rare glimpse into the dangerous situations Chicago police officers face every day in an effort to keep our communities safe. They will also assist in our efforts to provide better training and community relations in all of the diverse neighborhoods we serve.”

The department first announced the use of body cameras in late 2014, and rolled out a pilot program in January of 2015. An initial expansion of their use in April was funded with a $1 million grant from the Department of Justice and a matching grant from the Mayor’s Office. Johnson said the department will spend about $8 million for about 5,000 additional cameras, using funding from “CPD’s operating budget and grant funding.”

The announcement comes just a few days before Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to give a speech regarding a new agency that will replace the beleaguered Independent Policy Review Authority, charged with investigating claims of police brutality.

While both Johnson and Emanuel’s announcements are an attempt at dealing with decades of mistrust between the department and the public, it remains to be seen how well either effort will work. Body cameras have already not been without their issues. While the department didn’t drag their feet on releasing the footage of the killing of Paul O’Neal as they have done with previous fatal shootings, the camera worn by officer who was believed to have fired the fatal shots mysteriously malfunctioned. And in 2015, microphones were found on the rooftop of the Jefferson Park Police Station.

In a press conference, Johnson tried to dismiss incidents like these, saying that new technology requires more training. “"With any new technology you roll out — and that's not just with CPD, but any organization — you have to train people properly, and you have to give them a chance to get acclimated to using the new equipment,” said Johnson, according to the Tribune.