Chicago police officers disciplined over missing audio on dash-cam videos

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Almost two dozen Chicago police officers have been disciplined over their use of dash-cams following a warning to the rank-and-file about audio and video evidence.

The discipline comes in the wake of the shooting deaths of Laquan McDonald and Ronald Johnson by Chicago police officers.

At issue- missing audio on dash-cam videos. Chicago police officers wear a wireless microphone on their vests or utility belts. Those mics provide the audio to the camera mounted on the squad dashboard when the officer exits his car.

Audio was missing in the McDonald shooting and in many other videos, according to a department review by Interim Chicago Police Superintendent John Escalante. The review found the system has numerous technical problems and, in some case, officers purposely misused or didn't turn on their dash-cam microphones.

"We do know that there was some and we addressed that with discipline," Chicago Police Chief of Patrol Eddie Johnson said.

Chief of Patrol Johnson said 22 Chicago police officers were punished because of apparent intentional misuse of the microphones. Discipline ranges from formal reprimands to a three-day suspension without pay.

The review did not indicate how widespread the audio problem was. However, the new policy underscores the idea that dash-cams are an important tool that has to be operating correctly before an officer hits the streets.

After roll call, every camera gets checked; test video is shot before the squad leaves the station.

"The supervisor actually has to go and do a physical inspection before we do that to ensure the camera is operating properly. If it's not, then the sergeant will request a help ticket. So we are doing everything we can to internally to ensure our officers utilize their equipment," Chief of Patrol Johnson said.

Since Escalante's order, there has been a 70-percent increase in uploaded video after an officer's shift. While the department has long had the ability to discipline in these cases, it's now exercising it.
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