CPD plans for more officers to use body cameras

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago police officials plan to expand the use of police body cameras in the city.

The decision comes amid protests over police misconduct, as well as allegations that some police officers in-vehicle cameras -- intended to record their interactions with the public-do not work.

When Laquan McDonald was shot in 2014 by a Chicago police officer, none of the vehicle-mounted cameras at the scene recorded audio. In other police cases, key moments were missed because officers were outside of the narrow view of a dashcam camera

Body cameras worn by officers can capture more if they are used property. The cameras are touted as an effective way to better account for police interactions with the public.

Thirty Chicago officers have been testing body cameras in one North Side police district. On Wednesday, police brass announced plans to deploy 1,600 across seven districts this spring.

"The camera really is our friend," said CPD Cmdr. Marc Buslik. "It's that sort of silent partner that's going to be able to back up everything you did without somebody questioning the motives."

Vehicle cameras, also called dashcams, were rolled out with similar promises.

However, a recent CPD audit found 80 percent of the department's dashcams weren't recording audio; 12 percent failed to record retrievable video.

CPD Interim Superintendent John Escalante said Wednesday that 22 cases of officers allegedly disabling in-car cameras and audio have been referred to internal affairs for investigation. One of those cases includes a report of officers throwing their microphones on the police station roof.

"We're hoping that they'll see these body cameras really can be a benefit to them, can protect them more than they can hurt them," Escalante said.

In the district where body cameras have been in use for a few months, officials report that citizen complaints about officer conduct are down 26 percent.

"No single tool in law enforcement is the answer to all the problems," said CPD Deputy Chief Jonathan Lewin. "But we think it will have significant improvement department operations through reduction in officer use of force and reduced citizen complaints against officers."
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