The City of Evanston Police Department in partnership with the Northwestern University Police Department began a Body Worn Camera program for their respective departments. Nationwide, the use of body-worn cameras has become a best practice for police departments. Law enforcement agencies are using body-worn cameras in different ways, including improvements in evidence collection, strengthen officer performance and accountability, enhance transparency, better documentation of encounters between the police and the public and assist in the investigation of complaints. Studies have shown that the presence of a body-worn camera has a positive effect on the behavior of both officers and citizens during encounters. A body-worn camera is another of many tools available to an officer, but it should not be considered a be-all and end-all solution.
During the initial testing phase of the program, 9 patrol officers and 2 supervisors were outfitted with a body-worn camera. The initial testing phase will not only allow our personnel to test out the reliability and effectiveness of the equipment, but also address any procedural or technical issues that may arise. As part of the program, a Body-Worn Camera policy had to be initiated and can be found here. The State of Illinois has also enacted the Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act that can be found here.
In February of 2018, the Evanston Police Department deployed 120 Axon body worn cameras to the field units in patrol, traffic, problem solving team and the special operations group. In January 2019, we expanded the program to include members of the detective bureau, juvenile bureau and school resource officers. The Evanston Police Department recognizes that the duties and working environment for school resource officers are unique within law enforcement and that school resource officers are expected to continuously build trusting relationships with students and staff. Working with representatives from our local school districts, we continue to update our body worn camera policy as it relates to school resource officers and develop memorandums of understanding related to the deployment of body worn cameras in the schools. A copy of the policy is can be found here.
As part of the body worn camera program, we are asking residents to participate in a short survey that can be accessed here.
What does an officer record?
According to Illinois law, the camera must be turned on at all times when an officer is responding to a call for service or engaged in law enforcement activities.
Are officers required to tell people they are being recorded?
According to Illinois law, officers must only provide notice of recording only in circumstances where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Evanston Police Department policy has stricter guidelines and requires officers to announce they are equipped with a body-worn camera at the start of every recording or as soon as reasonably possible after the recording is initiated.
What if someone does not want to be recorded?
According to Illinois law, a victim, witness or community member who wishes to report a crime can request the camera be turned off. However, an officer may continue to record if exigent circumstances exist or the officer has a reasonable articulable suspicion that the individual may be involved in a crime.