Rauner signs law establishing statewide rules for use of police body cameras
Police body cameras and other reforms will help save taxpayer dollars and improve both police accountability and public safety.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation on Aug. 12 with bipartisan support establishing rules regarding the use of police body cameras throughout Illinois; the new legislation also bans law enforcement officers from using chokeholds.
Under Public Act 99-0352, Illinois law now requires that if a law enforcement agency uses body cameras, the cameras “must be turned on at all times when the officer[s are] in uniform and [are] responding to calls for service or engaged in any law enforcement-related encounter[s] or activit[ies].” The law further provides that cameras should be turned off when police interview crime victims, witnesses or informants. Video of all recorded encounters must be maintained for 90 days, after which the recordings are to be deleted, unless they’re flagged for investigation or an encounter is subject to a formal complaint. In such cases, they’ll be kept for longer.
In addition to establishing rules for the use of body cameras, the new law also bans the use of chokeholds unless deadly force is justified. And the law outlines procedures for handling deaths in which law-enforcement officers are involved.
The new reforms come as the result of bipartisan negotiations and agreement. To help cover the cost of expanding body-camera usage throughout the state, a $5 fee will be added to Illinois traffic tickets (excluding parking, registration and pedestrian offenses). Weighed against the cost of police-misconduct payments, the fee would only reduce the net savings for taxpayers by a miniscule amount. The city of Chicago alone, for example, spent over $520 million on police-misconduct-related lawsuits from 2004 through 2014, according to research by the Better Government Association.
There’s strong evidence that cameras do lead to a change in behavior. One study conducted in Rialto, California, showed a 60-percent reduction in the use of force and an 88-percent reduction in complaints against the police in a single year after officers started wearing body cameras.
And police officers benefit from the new law as well: Having an objective record of events protects law enforcement from false accusations of misconduct. Body cameras reassure good officers that their conduct won’t be misconstrued.
Cameras still need to be implemented in some jurisdictions in Illinois. But the law is a step toward improving police accountability, reining in lawsuit costs and restoring public trust in law enforcement.